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10 Ways Walkers Can Help Their Communities

Walking can do more than improve your health

older couple struggling with walking a large white dog

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Kennel dogs often need exercise, socialization, play and love. Try contacting a shelter, and share your walk with a furry new friend.

En español | Want to feel even better about your walking habit? Use those 10,000 steps as an opportunity not just to boost your health, but also to help others. If you’re ready to walk the talk about giving back more often, here are some steps you might take:

1. Become a museum docent i.e., a knowledgeable volunteer who leads visitors through exhibits, interprets what’s on display and answers questions. If you can commit to several hours of instruction and an assignment that’s often longer than a year, you can put your presentational skills, curiosity and love of art, architecture or history to great use. Contact museums in your area about their docent programs.

2. Walk dogs at a rescue shelter. Pooches kept in kennels much of the day need exercise, socialization, play and love. If there’s a shelter near you, consider sharing your walks with a four-legged buddy.

3. Organize a “walking school bus.” Compared to our generation and that of our parents, very few schoolchildren today walk to school. Safety is a major concern. Launching a program that provides adult chaperones to kids along various pedestrian routes to school gives youngsters security, freedom, new friends, fresh air and exercise. It can also be a solution for towns that have reduced school bus service to save money. To set the wheels on the bus into motion, check out this plan.

4. Sign up for a charity walkRegister with the nonprofit organization of your choice, sign up your sponsors, recruit your friends, design or collect your T-shirt and lace up those shoes. Organizations that help folks with HIV/AIDS, food allergies, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis and others are making great strides with the help of volunteers like you.

5. Join a community cleanup. Your town probably organizes one for Earth Day in April, but what’s stopping you from taking disposable gloves and a small trash bag with you on your daily walk — helping to keep your neighborhood beautiful year-round?

6. Deliver meals to homebound seniors. Organizations that fight hunger need folks to prepare hot meals or fill bags with donated produce, meat and other foods. But once that’s done, many depend on volunteers to get it quickly to people with limited mobility. Check in with a food pantry or Meals on Wheels about working the midday meal run. Chances are you’ll also deliver a smile to someone who doesn’t get out often.

7. Welcome visitors and residents with a free neighborhood walking tour. More smaller communities are hyping their historical relevance as a way to support landmark preservation efforts, draw traffic to small-business districts, market the area and celebrate their unique heritage. Organize a theme, create a route, share what’s great about your town and meet new people.

8. Become a neighborhood greeter. Less formal than a tour guide, a volunteer greeter is a friendly resident whom visitors can call on informally to show them parks, shopping sweet spots, architecture and other hidden gems. Show off the neighborhood you’re happy to call home.

9. Share your sight with a fitness partner who is blind. Besides getting out for some exercise, blind neighbors also appreciate help with grocery shopping, reading and bill paying.

10. Volunteer as a walking buddy to an older person who lives alone. Elders near you who are isolated or frail can benefit from exercise and social contact with a regular walking partner. The nearest assisted living center or senior center may have a program in place.

Explore the Real Possibilities near you by visiting AARP’s volunteer hub, Create The Good, then searching your ZIP code and “walking.”