Gardening Health through gardening

Garden Your Way to a Longer Life

You’ve probably heard that gardeners tend to live longer than the average. I know I have. But did you know this is not just a belief, but there seems to be plenty of scientific evidence to back it up?

Studies done in areas of the world where people frequently live longer than average, to the point where centenarians are not uncommon, show that the local population shares a lot of traits. Among others, they eat well (lots of fresh vegetables, little meat), have healthy exercise habits and benefit from a good social support system. And many of them garden.

Seniors in Okinawa, Japan, the area in the world with the world’s highest ratio of centenarians, tend to garden until very late in life. According to Dr. Bradley Cox of the University of Hawaii, gardening tends to give them ikigai, a reason for living. They also benefit from yuimaru, or a high level of social connectedness in gardening, when they share their produce and interact with other people.

Gardening socially appears to be even better for your health than gardening on your own. Photo: vtnews.vt.edu

Another study done at Harvard University shows that people who were surrounded by lush greenery lived longer, with a lower chance of developing cancer or respiratory illnesses.

Australian researchers concluded that people who gardened regularly have a 36% lower risk of dementia that people who didn’t garden.

And in a Dutch study, which compared light gardening to reading, participants were exposed to a stressful activity, then asked to read quietly indoors or do a bit of gardening. They had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol after a 30-minute gardening session, while it actually went up in readers. Gardeners also said they felt “fully restored” to a good mood.

No one is denying that genetics are a major factor in longevity or that there is still much to be discovered about aging in good health, but if you’re a gardener, it’s nice to know that your favorite hobby can help you advance in age in better health and with an improved mental capacity. 

You can find a more detailed article on this subject at http://www.bbc.com/capital/story/20181210-gardening-could-be-the-hobby-that-helps-you-live-to-100.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

3 comments on “Garden Your Way to a Longer Life

  1. Well, I’m 62 and I am frequently told I look in my 40’s and I’m an avid and eager gardener… I have 76 houseplants alone, and I can’t tell you just how well-stocked my garden is… I’m no expert. There’s so much still to learn and appreciate, I would call myself a savvy enthusiast, but by no means a vessel of any intense knowledge… But it’s such a great feeling to see the results of your labours bloom, flourish and respond to good basic garden management!

  2. Pingback: Why Your Plants Make You Happy – Laidback Gardener

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