Longevity Tips: Work on Your Green Thumb

woman gardening
How does your garden grow? You may have a few humble window boxes or an ambitious veggie plot, but did you realize that when you’re playing in the dirt, you’re protecting your physical and mental health while you do so? Gardening can reduce incidence of heart disease, osteoporosis, stress, and weight-gain. No wonder this is one of the most common hobbies amongst centenarians around the world! And the best news? Studies show that you don’t need to dig up your entire yard to reap these benefits, a few houseplants or urban window boxes will do the trick! Read on to unearth the secret benefits of gardening.

Balance Mental Health and Reclaim Your Zest for Life!
There are many ways to look at gardening: as a way to produce healthy food, a physical activity, a beautiful paradise, or, for many, an anti-stress tool. While most of us can attest to feeling better when we’re surrounded by flowers, vegetables, and green plants, that’s just the tip of the pea pod! Gardening is a discipline, and as such, it requires patience, cultivates fortitude, and in the end, brings both tangible rewards and bountiful joy to its practitioners. Studies on individuals suffering from anxiety or dementia also contend that gardening helps calm agitation and improve quality of sleep while normalizing sleep patterns. Not sure? Researchers from Texas A&M University found through interviews that self-identified gardeners had significantly higher levels of optimism, resolution, and “zest for life” than other study participants.

Protect from Osteoporosis
Protecting your bone health and warding off osteoporosis takes more effort than we often think, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun at the same time. Physical activity that involves weight training and varied movements is one of the best ways to increase your joint mobility, strength, and balance – no matter what your age! In a study of 3,310 women by the University of Arkansas, those who indicated that they gardened and or did other yard work had lower rates of osteoporosis than those who jogged, swam, or did aerobics.

Beat Diabetes by Gardening Regularly
Many physical activities that form our daily routines – including the squatting, lifting, pulling, and digging of gardening – count as exercise and can help strengthen your body and immune system, all while reducing your susceptibility to a number of conditions, including diabetes. If you’re an active gardener, then you’re likely getting more than the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week to stay healthy and fit. If you garden less frequently, you should still consider that time as beneficial to your health! The daily activities that gardening offers help reduce sugar in the bloodstream by causing the muscles to use up excess blood sugars that are the trademark of diabetes.

Not only does the physical activity help reduce your risk of diabetes, but that fresh food you’re producing will certainly help. Communities with access to fresh, local food (and what’s more local than your own backyard or community garden?) have lower diabetes rates than those without.

Where to start? Starting a garden can seem daunting: there’s weeding, seeding, and sweat. Plus, if you’re living in an urban environment and don’t have a backyard, there’s the question of space and innovation. I suggest that you team up with your local garden club or community garden to get tips, learn techniques, or get your own little plot of land in the middle of the city. Community gardens and clubs are more prevalent now than ever, so take advantage!