Six Ways to Break a Sweat While Giving Back


Bearded man petting dog after walk

Volunteerism plays an important role in a healthy lifestyle. 

It has been found to decrease the risk of depression, teach new skills and reduce stress levels, while also leaving a long-lasting, positive impression on you and those you are helping.

Volunteering in active ways can also benefit your physical wellbeing. 

Here are six ways to give back to your community while breaking a sweat.

Lend a hand at the hospital

Penn has a need for volunteers at hospitals across our health system. 

More active volunteer roles include transporting patients in wheelchairs and stretchers, wheeling the bookmobile or coffee cart among patients’ rooms, organizing the library and running errands for patients and staff in the emergency department. Learn more about volunteering and fill out an application at Pennsylvania Hospital, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Chester County Hospital, Lancaster General Health and Princeton Health.

Walk, run or ride with a purpose

Lace up your sneakers to support your favorite nonprofit organization. 

Many nonprofits host benefit runs and rides throughout the spring, summer and fall. You can likely find a bike ride, fun run or walk-a-thon near you most weekends.

Train among champions

In Pennsylvania, there are 56 city or county programs associated with Special Olympics, and all of them need volunteers throughout the year. 

One way to get involved is by joining a Special Olympics unified team. These teams join people without intellectual disabilities with athletes with intellectual disabilities to develop sports skills while forging friendships.

Another way is by coaching. Philadelphia program coaches help athletes develop skills and apply them in competitions. Coaches instill confidence and self-esteem in their athletes through sports and also conduct demonstrations throughout the community. Learn how to become a Special Olympics unified sports partner or coach at

Lead a pack

Leash up a four-legged adoptable friend for a walk, help bathe a pup or clean out a kennel while potentially meeting a new BFF. As an added bonus, you could get a slobbery kiss of appreciation. 

The Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society is currently accepting volunteer applications for its Old City, Grays Ferry and Northeast adoption centers. Learn more at The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is accepting applications for volunteers in Philadelphia, Danville and Lancaster. Learn more at

Exercise your green thumb 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, gardening can be compared to moderate cardiovascular exercise. However, not all aspects of gardening are created equal. You’ll feel little burn from standing and watering flowers, but get a nice workout from weeding, digging, hoeing, raking and planting.

The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has several opportunities for gardening enthusiasts to flex their green thumbs while breaking a sweat. No experience necessary. Learn more about volunteering with PHS by emailing

Clear a path

Help beautify the park that’s home to Pennsylvania’s 2018 Trail of the Year

Wissahickon Valley Park has twice-weekly volunteer workdays. On Saturdays, volunteers conduct trail maintenance, invasive weed removal, planting and general clean-ups, while Tuesdays are for structure repair and construction. Plus, you might get to hike Forbidden Drive on the way to your work site. For more information or to volunteer, email

Or show some love to a park in your neighborhood.

The Fairmount Park Conservancy, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and the Park Friends Network sponsors a biannual clean-up called LOVE Your Park, which encourages volunteers to renew public green spaces and create welcoming and fun recreation opportunities for Philly-dwellers. Learn more at

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