The Hobby of the World’s Oldest People

May 11, 2023 at 9:31 p.m.

When Dan Buettner came out with his study of "Blue Zones" -- places around the world where residents regularly live to age 100 and beyond in good health -- a new era in longevity study began.

People living in Blue Zones have much in common: they exercise daily, eat a mostly plant-based diet, and have strong social connections.

These centenarians also share something else. An article by Tyler Connaghan reports that you may be able to easily copy one of the habits of people living in a Blue Zone. They tend to maintain a small, personal garden well into old age.

“It turns out that the key to living a long and fulfilling life may just be getting your hands in the soil,” he writes.

Nature. Gardening gets you in touch with nature, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure and anxiety. Being in nature is restorative, writes Connaghan. In fact, some doctors prescribe nature walks for their patients. 

Exercise. Outdoor physical activity has been linked to a longer life. "If you garden, you're getting some low-intensity physical activity most days, and you tend to work routinely," comments Buettner.

Connaghan points out that gardening is a great form of exercise. “Digging, planting, and weeding can burn as many calories as a brisk walk, and it engages a variety of muscles, including your arms, shoulders, back, and core.” Plus, all that squatting, bending and stretching in the fresh air.

Nutrition. For those who grow their own fruits and vegetables, gardening can put healthy food on your table. Homegrown fruits and veggies are fresher and typically retain more nutritional value than store-bought produce. 

A Mental Workout. Keeping your mind active contributes to a longer lifespan, says Connaghan. He adds that it may be surprising to think of gardening as mental exercise. Bu planning and designing your garden layout, researching the best plants for your site, and problem-solving issues that may arise, such as pest control and amending the soil, “all require critical thinking and decision-making skills."

Stress reliever. Gardening is therapeutic, writes Connaghan. He cites studies that show gardening reduces the stress hormone, cortisol, while increasing the happiness hormone, serotonin. “Plus, your garden can be a peaceful and meditative environment, allowing you to escape the chaos of daily life.”

Even people living in an apartment or retirement community can often maintain gardens. Look into local pea patch programs, or your community may offer raised bed gardens for their residents. 

Learn more about "Blue Zones" here:

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