I love to garden. I think that a more serious gardener might turn their nose up at what I consider gardening but I enjoy it. It turns out that the famous research about Blue Zones reveals that folks in those areas who are famous for their longevity also share a love for gardening!
It’s not news that lowering stress levels, healthy eating habits, and physical activity are key factors that contribute to longevity. There are few activities that combine all of these but gardening does!
A recent Dutch study that found that gardening actually provides relief from acute stress. Here’s a quote from the research abstract (bolding is my edit):
Gardening and reading each led to decreases in cortisol during the recovery period, but decreases were significantly stronger in the gardening group. Positive mood was fully restored after gardening, but further deteriorated during reading. These findings provide the first experimental evidence that gardening can promote relief from acute stress.
The fresh vegetables and fruits that you get from gardening can contribute to healthy eating habits. We have a small garden at work and several cherry tomato plants were very fruitful this summer. You could have had a tomato salad every day. I think that homegrown vegetables also taste better. Plus you can grow them organically. We are all organic in our garden at work.
Of course, gardening can be physical work. You’ll need to have some flexibility to stretch to prune and pinch. You’ll need to be able to carry soil, plants, mulch, and even harvested produce. Your garden is likely outside and you need to be able to get up and out of the house. As one ages, just getting out of the house can be exercise.
Further, gardening can be a social activity. In many neighborhoods, groups are starting community gardens. Folks can garden their own plot but take care of communal maintenance tasks. This promotes social activity and research shows that regular social activity can be good for memory and fights depression. It can give folks a reason to get up and get going – and sometimes that motivation is enough to keep you going strong… all the way to 100!