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. You get enough Vitamin D. As far as I know, gardening typically is not done at night, so when tending a garden your pretty much consistently exposed to sun. The body naturally produces Vitamin D through sun exposure. Vitamin D prevents cancers and heart disease, so the increase in this essential vitamin could contribute to longer life.
2. You play in the dirt. Believe it or not, sticking your hands in mother earths brown blanket is good for you! In fact, lack of dirt, or 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.
3. Getting grounded. Earthing is a technique that is new to me and one which is proven to be extremely beneficial to ones health, according to the book, 'Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever'. 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.
4. Stress Relief. Many folks garden specifically for the reduced stress and increased relaxation they experience while tending to their colorful babies. It's a win-win when they reap the added benefits of fresh, natural foods. We've all heard, at some time or another, how bad stress is for us. Stress hormones can effect everything from blood pressure to cortisol levels to inflammation, so balancing those hormones can do a lot of good.
5. You eat more vegetables. Gardeners grow a lot of vegetables, so, logically, they probably eat more vegetables. Consumption of more veggies and fewer processed foods means more nutrients, antioxidants and less toxins put into our bodies. I don't think any more needs to be said on that topic.
6. Exercise. Working out in the garden means you're moving, you're digging, you're lifting plants or raking. Movement is essential for your body and these activities provide the positive benefit of exercise in a relaxing and sustainable way. (Another) Win-Win!