Be selfish. Volunteer.

A 2007 study on the health benefits of volunteering found volunteers had greater longevity, lower rates of depression and less incidence of heart disease. See? Giving isn’t really all that selfless.

Next week (Oct.19-25), several networks including ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox have a plan to improve your health by helping others, according to USA Today. The stations will feature more than 90 shows aimed at getting viewers to kick their couches to the curb and help someone. (Weird. I would think these stations rely on viewers curled up on said couches to watch their shows.)

The program, I Participate, will include celebrity PSAs, messages from cast members and segments on reality shows and programs such as The View and Today. But a big chunk of the program will be hidden in themes and dialogue in shows.

Contestants on NBC's Biggest Loser, for example, will go to a food bank to pack goods for those who don't have enough to eat. "It's not the most natural tie-in," says Loser co-creator JD Roth. "But it's a great way to raise awareness of obesity while making viewers aware of millions of people who can't put food on their table."

Next week, Private Practice doctors will donate time at a homeless shelter and Ghost Whisperer crime solvers will donate blood.

"Embedding something into entertainment plants a seed that has value in ways a (PSA) doesn't. You're not beating someone over the head with it," says CSI: NY's Hill Harper.

Public service themes were snuck so seamlessly in some shows that casts didn’t even know they were part of a broader initiative.

"We wanted to make it part of the fabric of the story, but not the story – that this is something the characters would do, that they are natural and organic to the their everyday lives," says Shonda Rhimes, creator of ABC's Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice.

Just a few of the participating shows include:
30 Rock, Bones, Brothers, Brothers and Sisters, Cougar Town, CSI, Dancing With the Stars, Desperate Housewives, Eastwick, Grey's Anatomy, How I Met Your Mother, Project Runway, Scrubs, So You Think You Can Dance?, The Big Bang Theory, The Mentalist, The Office and Ugly Betty.

Filmmaker Robin Baker Leacock, who created a documentary on the impact of helping others, says the timing is perfect, given the current economic crisis. "People are starting to see you only get so much satisfaction acquiring things and status," she says. "Helping others makes people feel good. If TV can show how people can help, even subliminally, that's great."

So do something good for society, curl up on the couch and turn on the boob tube next week. and AARP will track interest in the program. This is intended to become a multiyear effort.

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“Be selfish. Volunteer.”