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There is a lot of evidence, most anecdotal, some scientific, about how gardeners live up to 14 years longer than non-gardeners. That’s a pretty impressive life extension and it certainly warrants further research.
National Geographic author Dan Buettner has studied this in depth by visiting what he called “blue zones” around the world- places where life expectancy is significantly longer. He studied these people and his findings are somewhat surprising. Watch a TED talk about his findings here.
Certainly, there are many factors involved, but I think there are some key things that gardeners do that could contribute to longer life:
1. Get Enough Vitamin D
Typically, gardening isn’t done at night, so while tending a garden, one is usually in the sun consistently. The body naturally produces Vitamin D from sun exposure, and since Vitamin D is protective against types of cancer and heart disease, it is logical that those with higher Vitamin D levels could live longer.
How to Get the Benefit: Even if you don’t garden, you can spend some time in the sun and get enough Vitamin D. Make sure to optimize these factors so that you are producing Vitamin D and not burning!
2. Play In the Dirt
Gardening, by its nature, means sticking your hands in the dirt. While our society shuns dirt and invents things like chemical hand sanitizer, dirt can actually be good for you! In fact, lack of dirt, and the soil borne organisms that come with it, has been linked to higher auto-immune disease.
Soil is an incredibly rich source of natural bacteria, minerals, and microorganisms. Touching the soil regularly exposes the body to beneficial (and small amounts of harmful) microorganisms that can boost the immune system. Since beneficial bacteria and gut health are so vital to overall health, it is logical that the immune boosting properties of dirt could increase longevity as well.
How to Get the Benefit: You can take probiotics and eat fermented foods, but you still won’t be exposed to the same variety of micro-organisms unless you get your hands dirty!
3. Getting Grounded
Gardeners spend time touching the earth and the soil. According to the book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever, this alone could have tremendous benefit.
The theory is that many of us rarely or never touch the earth with bare skin, and certainly not for extended periods of time. This leads to a build up of positive electrons in the body from electrical energy, electromagnetic frequencies, WI-FI and more. The earth acts as a ground, just as it does for electrical outlets, reducing the extra positive charge.
The author speculates that this build-up and lack of contact with the earth can lead to inflammation and disease. Gardeners, by touching the earth are “grounding” themselves and removing this extra charge.
How to Get the Benefit: Walk around barefoot outside for at least 20 minutes a day or use an Earthing Mat when sleeping.
4. Stress Relief
Many gardeners cite relaxation and stress relief as reasons that they garden. Stress negatively affects hormones and increases risk of disease, so having a positive outlet for stress is tremendously beneficial for health. Balancing stress hormones has a positive effect on everything from blood pressure, to cortisol levels to inflammation.
How to Get the Benefit: Regularly make time to do something relaxing that you enjoy, preferably outside.
5. They Eat Vegetables
Logically, gardeners often grow vegetables, which means that logically, they also probably eat them. Consumption of more vegetables and less processed foods means more nutrients, antioxidants and less toxins. Win-win.
How to Get the Benefit: Eat a lot of vegetables… ’nuff said.
6. They Exercise
Lifting plants and soil, raking, and digging… it all requires low-level activity and weight lifting. These activities provide the positive benefits of exercise in a relaxing and sustainable way. Another win-win.
How to Get the Benefit: Every week, make time for exercises like heavy lifting and light exercise like swimming, hiking, or walking.
Do you garden? Why do you do it? Share below!
Discussion (16 Comments)
I love the touch and smell of soil. It makes me go crazy….. gardening is my hobby. I do spend an hour messing up myself with soil and watch something grow out of it.:)
Very true. Gardening is a healthy activity not only to the physical well being but also to a person’s emotional & psychological well being. Gardeners are healthier & happier.
I started planting flowering plants three years ago. I often buy distressed or sale plants and hope for the best. If something isn’t happy where I plant it, I just dig it up and move it to a new spot. I’m gradually learning about mulching and soil amendments. I was thrilled to read that clover is good for adding nitrogen into the soil. I’ve always loved it and now I have even more reason to encourage it. The fresh air and exercise are good for me, but the main reason I plant is to watch things grow. Now that my children are grown, plants are like my babies. They also add color and beauty to my life.
I love to garden and this past year we increased the size of our garden many fold. We also added an orchard and berry hill and grapevines. We cut down several trees and hauled wood chips and composted soil and more plus a retaining wall. This past summer was the best I had felt in years. All the exercise and fresh air and sun and fresh fruit and vegetables did me a world of good. I think, faith, family and food are the three keys to living a healthy, productive, long and meaningful life. I love your website! I plan on making the magnesium spray, shampoo and hair spray recipes as well. God Bless!
I love my garden. That is where we get the majority of our veggies. I was just wondering about your suggestion to walk barefoot in the grass. I’ve seen too many episodes of “Monsters Inside Me” (and am now super paranoid). I know one of the risks of walking barefoot is hookworms going up through your feet. Since I also have a ton of animals, I have been thinking of taking a homeopathic dewormer just in case. What are your thoughts?
We occasionally take diatomaceous earth for this reason…
We have tons of DE around the house. I use it everywhere and urge everyone who adopts an animal from me to get some. I just hate the texture of it :(. I guess I’ll just have to start adding it to smoothies. 🙂 Thanks!
I have no scientific education to back what you say. But I can say that I feel great gardening with my wife and 2 children. Nothing better than getting dirty, picking lunch or dinner, and making it together. If nothing else, gardening helps us be together and that is a good thing. I love it.
I love gardening. My daughter (age 2) and I walk around, pulling weeds, and picking vegies barefoot. Since we don’t use pesticides, she frequently will eat whatever we pick while in the garden. At two she knows where tomatoes come from, and that she’s not allowed to pick the watermelon until they get big. I love that she thinks this is normal, the way everyone gets their food.
We practice sustainable gardening and we never throw out the weeds. Cut or pull them and just throw them back on the ground to replenish the soil and to use as mulch to protect and cool the soil. Growing vetch and clover adds nitrogen to the soil and when it gets to large or begins to flower, just cut it back and let it regrow and leave the cuttings on the top of the soil to fertilize your vegetables and fruits. Planting tomatoes in a garden of chopped vetch will yield more pounds of produce and will help to prevent weeds. Just dig a hole where the vetch was planted and recover the soil with the cut vetch leafs. Farmers from 200 years ago in America knew about the importance of cover crops and how they help to amend the soil. Comfrey also is a good companion plant to grow because of it’s deep roots which pull up minerals from deep in the ground. It’s dead leafs will help to amend the soil and your vegetable plants will contain more nutrients. Oak leafs also contain a high amount of minerals because of the deep roots from oak trees. Spread oak leafs out to use as a mulch or compost them.
MElisleFlef, ducks will take care of the slugs. If they are legal where you live, you could get some. They lay really good eggs too.
I read this today in the garden centre car park as my husband was paying for our purchases! We have a tiny garden in the city centre and grow so much! Strawberries, redcurrants, blueberries, apples, sour cherries, mulberries, elderberries, raspberries. Leeks, carrots, purple carrots, rainbow chard, rocket, tomatoes, chillies. And countless herbs. Too many to list! Not bad for Ireland, and one of the worst, wettest and coldest summers. My husband works really hard, long hours and nothing chills him out more than planting in the garden. And I love cooking with all the produce. Trying to be organic so will be reading more of your gardening posts. Slugs are a big problem here.
Try spreading some coffee grounds on top of your soil in a ring around the plants. The slugs and snails hate crawling across the rough and acidic coffee grounds. It works even better than chemical treatments.
Nancy K Cook
Happy to hear about the coffee grounds tip. Here’s another: save your eggshells all winter and spread a ring of crumbled-up shells around each new bunch of plants. The shells hurt the slugs’ little bodies & discourage them. Shells gradually disintegrate into the soil and are good for that too.
Yes! I have a small garden in the front of my house where my flowers used to be. At the time it was the only place that got enough sun for any veggies to grow. Now I am turning it into more of an herb garden and since we had some nasty Scrub Oaks cut down I have sunlight in my backyard to start on a raised bed system for our veggies (maybe in time for a Fall garden). We do plan to add a couple of trees back to the yard although they will be fruit trees and not get as big as those Oaks with leaves that never would decompose! They were not those beautiful Oak trees that you see in Southern Living or else I would have kept them and worked out another plan for my veggies. 🙂 Oh, I do it because I like to eat the stuff I grow. It is fun to watch it grow. Makes me think of my Grandma. And believe it or not it helps me to understand some of the parables that Jesus spoke of in the Bible and the things that we are supposed to do.