The five places around the world where residents are famed for their longevity include Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Icaria in Greece, Loma Linda in California and Sardinia in Italy. People who live in these blue zones have certain factors in common to include social support networks, a plant-based diet, and daily exercise habits. But these residents also share another unexpected commonality and that is gardening well into old age, into their 80s, 90s and beyond. So the question is whether or not gardening might help you live to be 100?
Living life with moderate physical activity and an outdoor lifestyle have been linked to longer life, and gardening can be an easy way to achieve both. When you garden you are getting in some low-intensity physical activity. Studies have shown that gardeners tend to be less stressed and live longer, and this is due to both the mental and physical health benefits that are achieved through gardening. Gardening can help lower levels of stress, helping you to feel restored, and in a better mood after being outside gardening. Researchers in Australia who followed men and women in their 60s found that those who gardened regularly had a 36 percent lower risk of dementia than their non-gardening counterparts.
Other benefits of gardening include sunlight and fresh air, both of which help you to feel calmer, while the colors and textures of the different plants and vegetables can also improve visual and tactile ability. In Okinawa, they say that anyone who grows old healthfully needs to have an ikigai, or a reason for living. Gardening is the thing that gives you something to do every day. Okinawans are also known for valuing the concept of yuimaru, which is social connectedness. Gardening and getting together at the local farmers market, sharing your fruits and vegetables is considered a big social activity that helps you to feel connected and grounded. Gardening, even if it's on a small plot in an urban area is a simple way to incorporate a bit of nature into your day. There is something special about growing and eating vegetables that you’ve grown yourself, it changes everything, they taste better, and gardeners are more likely to plant the foods they want to eat.
Gardening may inspire a healthier diet that is higher in plant-based foods, and researchers have found a link between a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fish and olive oil with slower aging. Gardening isn't the magic answer against aging and does not guarantee a longer lifespan. But some of the lifestyle factors that are associated with gardening to include going outside, eating a healthy plant-based diet, and engaging in light physical activity might just be what the doctor ordered. Longevity isn't about just one single factor, it is a combination of four things to include diet, physical activity, mental engagement, and social connection are the four legs. If you don’t have one of these factors you tend to fall out of balance, and this can shorten life expectancy.
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