The Holiday Season is a time for giving, and that includes supporting causes and organizations that make our communities stronger.

It’s in this spirit that physical therapist Brock Monger of Apex Physical Therapy in Madras shares some holiday giving suggestions that offer a more healthful return than simply writing a check.

Give Back & Be Fit

“The holidays are a pretty stressful time for a lot of people, and exercise is a proven way to reduce stress and anxiety while improving overall happiness,” said Monger, co-owner of Apex Physical Therapy. “It just so happens giving and volunteering provide similar health benefits. Put them together, and you’re likely to experience a more joyful and relaxing holiday season.”

Such an approach to holiday giving, Monger adds, isn’t just about contributing to one’s 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week, as recommended by the Department of Health and Human Services.

That said, Monger suggests the following five ways to give back and be fit this Holiday Season:

Volunteer ‘Sweat Equity’

There are lots of ways to volunteer during the holidays, and many involve various levels of physical activity. Collecting gift donations for a local children’s charity, for instance, or helping sort and deliver food donations for a food pantry, requires time, muscle and (if it’s a charitable year) good endurance.

Do a Charity Fun Run or Walk

Charity fun runs and walks continue to grow in popularity, even during the colder months of the year. Registration fees for these events typically go to local charities, and some allow for added individual or team fundraising so you can maximize your donation. Check your local event calendar for options.

Lend a Neighbor a Hand

Most of us have neighbors who could use a helping hand on occasion, be they elderly, disabled, alone, or short on time or money. The holidays are a great time to check in with them and see if they could use some help with physical tasks like yard work, clearing the driveway of snow or ice, putting out Christmas decorations, or even childcare.

Walk Your Best Friends

Are animals your passion? Perfect! Animals need exercise just like people do, and most animal shelters welcome volunteers eager to play with and walk the dogs and cats. Not only is walking great exercise for both people and pets, but spending time with animals can also lower stress and blood pressure.

Arm Your Smartphone

If the interpersonal aspect of volunteering doesn’t quite fit your personality, you still have options. Some smartphone apps exist (Charity Miles is the most prominent) that allow you to convert workout miles and/or daily activity into donations to reputable nonprofit organizations.

“Of course, if pain or discomfort is holding you back from these activities, physical therapy could be of benefit,” Monger said. “We suggest contacting Apex or your friendly local physical therapist to help get you back on a path toward being as active as you want to be.”