Want to live to be 100 years old? Get out and garden! Even if you’re not aiming for the centenarian club, gardening can help you live longer and be healthier. Whether you choose flowers, edible crops, ornamental plants or a combination, you’ll reap many earthly rewards.
National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner researched locales with large numbers of centenarians, also known as “Blue Zones.” Among his findings, his work also showed that one hobby many of these 100+ year-olds have in common is gardening. The National Institute of Health has also found gardening to boast several health benefits. Here are a few of the top reasons you should give it a try.
Weeding may not replace a full workout, but it does keep your muscles and joints moving. The squatting, bending, reaching and stooping involved helps strengthen and tone muscles. If you’re doing heavy work, like moving stones, digging or transporting bags of mulch, you can burn as much as 600 calories in an hour. Building garden beds and turning the soil gives you a bonus calorie burn.
Gardening can boost your mental health simply by getting you outside. Spending time in nature can help reduce your stress and calm frayed nerves after a long day. The motions of gardening also have a meditative quality, letting you live in the moment and focus on the plant life in front of you. Plus, you’ll get the satisfaction of nurturing new life and tending it to maturity and beyond.
Growing your own food is a great way to ensure that it’s healthy and fresh. Gardening can encourage you to eat a more plant-based diet, which in turn can help extend your life. You’re likely to plant foods you like to eat, increasing the chances you’ll actually consume those garden greens on your plate.
If you’re a novice, start small and choose plants that are easy to grow like tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, herbs or leafy greens. When it comes to flowers, native plants like little bluestem and rockrose are also smart choices for your Austin yard. Native plants are adapted to hot summers, mild winters, long droughts and sudden flash floods which helps to keep your garden looking great all year long.
Any kid will tell you digging in the dirt is great fun. Turns out, it can also benefit your health. Soil contains a microbe called Mycobacterium vaccae which, like some anti-depressants, may boost serotonin production. Serotonin is the hormone that regulates mood and happiness. Higher serotonin levels can help ward off depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders. When you garden, you inhale these microbes and absorb them through skin contact. So dig in and get your hands dirty: it’s good for you!
If you’re looking for a hobby that will pay off in spades, grab a spade and start planting. Gardening can boost your health and lengthen your life. Yes, it takes time and effort, like any activity worth doing. Along with improved health, you’ll get the tangible result of plants you can see, smell and even taste along the way.
About the Author
Todd Michaels is a conservationist with degrees in biology and botany. He writes about eco-friendly landscaping and recycling efforts around the country.