How Gardening Can Help You Live Longer

Studies reveal the connection between gardening and longevity.

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Gardening and a long life

“Life begins the day you start a garden,” says a Chinese proverb. Research on five global “blue zones”—places where residents are known for their longevity—suggests that those lives that begin in the garden will last there for a long, high-quality time.

In Okinawa, Japan, a “blue zone” that boasts the world’s highest ratio of centenarians (someone who has lived at least 100 years), the social connectedness that comes with sharing flowers and produce grown in small home gardens benefits happiness and overall health. On an emotional level, tending a garden also contributes to well-being.

Dr. Bradley Willcox of the University of Hawaii, who studies Japanese centenarians, recently told the BBC, “In Okinawa, they say that anybody who grows old healthfully needs an ikigai, or reason for living. Gardening gives you that something to get up for every day.”

The connection between gardening and longevity goes on and on. People who grow more fruits and vegetables themselves, for example, are more likely to have diets containing more plants than animals or processed foods. 

Then there’s the fact that simply spending time in nature can carry health benefits—according to Scottish doctors who are literally prescribing regular outdoor time to encourage wellness. 

But really. Do you need more research findings to convince you that tending a small patch of the planet—cultivating its most positive potential, thinking about its future, nourishing yourself from its bounty—can help you live a longer and more meaningful life

I don’t need such convincing. I know gardeners to be creative, patient, flexible and curious—qualities that define the positive path I try to walk each day. The idea that continuing my garden habit could contribute to a longer life is inspiring, but not as profoundly so as the simple joy that I feel each time I clear a patch of weeds, pluck a ripe tomato from the vine or sit in the quiet presence of my flowering containers. 

That pleasure is an end in itself. That research continues to confirm its validity is encouraging. But the seeds of a lifetime of gardening have already been planted in me.

How about you?

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