Could nurturing your green thumb help you live to 100?
There are some obvious factors that lead to longevity- diet, exercise, social life, etc. But this could be one more unexpected element.
Dan Buettner has studied five places around the world where residents are famed for their longevity: Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Icaria in Greece, and Loma Linda in California and Sardinia in Italy.
People living in these so-called “blue zones” have certain factors in common – social support networks, daily exercise habits and a plant-based diet, for starters. But they share another unexpected commonality. In each community, people are gardening well into old age – their 80s, 90s and beyond.
It is well-known that an outdoor lifestyle with moderate physical activity is linked to longer life, and gardening is an easy way to accomplish both. “If you garden, you’re getting some low-intensity physical activity most days, and you tend to work routinely,” says Buettner.
He says there is evidence that gardeners live longer and are less stressed. A variety of studies confirm this, pointing to both the physical and mental health benefits of gardening.
Australian researchers following men and women in their 60s found that those who regularly gardened had a 36% lower risk of dementia than their non-gardening counterparts.
And preliminary studies among elderly people suffering from cognitive issues (such as dementia and Alzheimer’s) report benefits from garden settings and horticulture therapy. Sunlight and fresh air, for example, help agitated elders feel calmer, while the colours and textures of various plants and vegetables can improve visual and tactile ability.
Even if gardening doesn't directly lead to longevity on its own, it does appear to improve our quality of life as we grow older.
To read more about how gardening can be beneficial to your health, visit BBC.