“The value of our lives is not determined by what we do for ourselves. The value of our lives is determined by what we do for others.” – Simon Sinek

If you’re fortunate to be in reasonably good health, how should you live your life? I believe there should be a quest behind the question, which is, you should do all you can to maintain your health to live a purposeful life and serve those less fortunate. Instead of taking your health for granted, it can be an invaluable resource to support a loved one, a friend, a neighbor or your community. Your efforts to maintain your health and willingness to help those in need become a model of compassion to serve a greater good in society, rather than for self-serving motives. Plus, helping others can improve your own well-being and sense of self-worth.

As a health and fitness instructor, I find it rewarding helping those who have chronic health issues, or a disability. This represents a large proportion of retirees I work with who have common age-related conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia and frailty caused by musculoskeletal decline. I’m also a coach for Rock Steady Boxing, which is a group fitness program for people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disorder that affects mostly people after the age of 50, and a higher percentage of men than women.

My Rock Steady Boxing participants are often accompanied by a spouse or younger family member or friend who offer support during my classes. They assist their boxing partner with PD by offering encouragement and praise that can boost motivation and help their partner “fight” against the symptoms of their disease. The “corner person”, as they’re known in our boxing community, is vital, especially to participants whose PD symptoms have progressed to where it’s more difficult to engage in class exercises. Not only do they provide physical support with challenging drills, their emotional support is altering the course of their partner’s disease. They exemplify the meaning of “no one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another”.

Studies have shown that people who help others or volunteer their time for a worthy cause have better health and lower risk for early death. On the other hand, being anxious and self-absorbed about your life reduces empathy for others and can lead to unhealthy behaviors and outcomes. So, when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, try doing random acts of kindness such as holding a door open or offering a compliment to a complete stranger. Over time, being kind or helpful towards others may also help maintain your long term health.

Your body is the only one you will ever have. You might not be happy with it and it will fail you at times, especially as you age. However, while you have the freedom to do with your body as you want, it’s almost a certainty that if you take care of it, you’ll not only be able to enjoy life more, it will allow you to take care of others, leading to a more meaningful way of life.