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10 Ways to Give Back Through Exercise
Buff up your philanthropic muscles by dedicating your workouts to a cause.
Photo courtesy of Atlas Run
The easiest way to get altruistic this season? Give back through something you're already committed to, like your a.m. run. All you have to do is cue up the Atlas Run app and every mile you log can rack up cash for good causes, like fighting homelessness, hunger, and unemployment.
Here's how it works: Using GPS, the app tracks your run (or hike or walk). With every mile completed, you unlock donations funded by socially-aware corporate sponsors (like AT&T and Dropbox) and non-profits who've signed on with Atlas Run. Consider this the extra oomph you need to push for that extra mile in your winter workout.
Photo courtesy of Girls on the Run
Girls on the Run
To kick your philanthropic runs into high gear, pitch in with Girls on the Run, a non-profit organization that teaches third- through eighth-grade girls how to build healthy, empowered futures through running. It's easy to get involved: You can sign up to be a running buddy, after school coach, or race day volunteer (there's a non-competitive 5K held at the end of every season). Or, if racing is more your style, sign up to be a GOTR SoleMate and fundraise for the organization while training for a new PR.
Photo courtesy of StickK
Working up the motivation to sweat isn't always easy. But when money is on the line, well, it gets a whole lot easier. And that's exactly why StickK works—the company ups the ante for those who need a little extra encouragement. First, you set a goal. It doesn't have to be about fitness—there are options for meditation, eating healthy, and even checking in with your bestie more often. Then, you put your hard-earned cash on the line, signing a "commitment contract" that says you'll donate a self-selected dollar amount to a StickK-selected charity (like the American Red Cross, Operation Smile, and Doctors Without Borders) if you don't meet your goal. Want to raise the stakes even more? Choose an "anti-charity," which sends your money to a cause you would hate to donate to (think presidential libraries of your opposing political party, or even your frenemy). Talk about some serious motivation to—yep—stick to it.
Photo courtesy of Cotopaxi
Next time you need to gear up for a wintery hike (perhaps on one of the American hiking trails you must do before you die), check out charitably-minded Cotopaxi. With a public commitment to creating positive social impact, the outdoor brand channels two percent of the company's profits into nonprofit grants that help alleviate global poverty and advance health and education around the world. This year's grantees include organizations like Educate Girls in India and the International Rescue Committee in Europe and the Middle East.
Photo courtesy of Workout Mission
If your give-back efforts keep falling off your to-do list (hey, it happens), Workout Mission makes your donations totally automatic by linking them to the workouts you're already logging. All you have to do is set your weekly workout goal, then select a mission that you want to donate to—the app works with causes like the Special Olympics and Challenged Athletes Foundation. After logging each workout (you're not limited to running or biking like other GPS-powered platforms, so that CrossFit sesh totally counts), you can celebrate your strength knowing a dollar was donated simply because you broke a sweat. (Speaking of CrossFit: Here are 6 things you should never do during a WOD.)
Photo courtesy of Back on My Feet
Back on My Feet
Back on My Feet is a national nonprofit that fights homelessness through the power of running and community support. They host early morning runs three days a week as part of their Phase 1 program, and are always looking for volunteers (consider it a more meaningful way to stick to your training plan). Want to invest monetarily? You can FundRace for the organization, which also happens to be one way to gain entry into major races like the New York City and London Marathons.
Photo courtesy of Bombas
To keep up with all that running, you'll need to stock up on socks. Bombas has a buy-one-give one model, meaning for every pair of Bombas socks that you buy, the company donates a pair to a homeless shelter, where socks are one of the top requested clothing items.
Photo courtesy of WoofTrax
Walk for a Dog
If working out with puppies sounds like more of a privilege than a philanthropic activity, you'll be into Walk for a Dog, the app that gives to your favorite animal organization every time you and Fido head outside to break a sweat. All you have to do is choose your local animal shelter (or preferred national organization) in the app, and next time you grab the leash, make sure the tracking tech is on so it tallies your workout. (Try these expert tips for running with your dog.) Donations are then funded by sponsorships and advertising, so the more people that walk for a given charity, the more cash they receive. (So don't forget to tell your fellow puppy parents to join in!)
Photo courtesy of Bic Bands
Finding a workout headband that actually stays in place is enough of a win, but Bic Bands—cute, functional workout headbands—really go the extra mile. The company supports organizations like Free Wheelchair Mission, The Cupcake Girls, and The One Fund, Boston with a cut of the cash from your purchase. (In the past two years, they've donated over $30,000.) Bonus: Bic Bands are locally designed and made by women in the community, empowering you to give back on a whole new level.
Photo courtesy of Charity Miles
Since you already track your run, you might as well put those miles toward a cause you care about. Enter Charity Miles: Similar to Atlas Run, this app works with corporate sponsors to donate to over 40 national and global charities, including Wounded Warrior Project, Stand Up To Cancer, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, and Girl Up. For every mile logged—be it a training run, a casual bike ride, or just walking to the coffee shop down the block—you raise money for your charity of choice. So far, users have generated over $2.5 million and that deserves a celebration.