Volunteering is perfectly suited for a teenager. After all, it’s a great way for a teenager to develop a sense of pride and satisfaction while making an impact in the community. Let’s not forget the wonderful opportunities to learn new skills, take on new challenges and maybe earn a little extra credit along the way.
Now, a new study reveals that teens who volunteer to help others can also add one more key benefit: Better heart health.
For this study, the researchers enrolled over 100 students attending the 10th grade at an urban high school in Vancouver, Canada. All the teens had similar heart health profiles as measured by blood cholesterol, body mass index and blood levels of pro-inflammatory compounds. Next, the researchers randomly assigned the teens to one of two groups. One group volunteered with elementary school-aged children every week for two months. The other group was simply placed on a “wait list” for volunteering.
The heart-warming results
Compared to the “wait-list” control group, the group engaged in active volunteering not only had a significant reduction in blood cholesterol but also in interleukin-6, a key marker of inflammation, as well as body mass index. What’s more, among the teens in the volunteering group, those who were the most empathic and altruistic and those who had the largest improvement in negative mood, had the most improvement in these risk factors for heart disease.
The bottom line
These findings add volunteering to the list of other lifestyle habits—eat a heart-healthy diet, get regular exercise, maintain a healthy body weight and avoid smoking cigarettes—that can help keep a teen’s heart strong and healthy.
Eating plenty of fruits and veggies as a teenager and into adulthood helps reduce the risk of heart disease. Just what type of teen is most likely to fill their daily plate with colorful fruits and veggies? You’ll find all the details in 6 Teen Factors For Future Fruit & Veggie Intake.
Here’s to keeping teens healthy!
Co-author of Eating for A’s
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