According to Science, Gardening Can Help You Live Longer (and Healthier)

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

What if I told you that you could live longer just by doing a bit of gardening? It might seem unlikely to you, but there could be some truth to it. In fact, there are studies that lean in favor of this theory.

People who garden regularly tend to live longer and healthier. Studies have proven that gardening provides both mental and physical health benefits. According to a Dutch study aimed at examining a possible link between gardening and longevity (or mortality), people who garden regularly are typically less stressed, healthier, and likely to live longer as a result. 

Click here to read more on the Dutch study linking gardening to longevity.

Dan Buettner, who happens to be a very well-known author for National Geographic, did a study on why some of the oldest people in the world (“blue zones”)get to the ages that they do. He found that most centenarians have one activity in common – gardening.

Read on to learn more about the many ways in which gardening may add years to your life (and life to your years, in my opinion).

How Gardening Can Help You Live Longer and Healthier! 

Gardening is not just a regular pastime; it can actually add value to your life. Over the many years that I have been an avid gardener, I have heard all about the many health benefits of gardening. While I certainly need no additional encouragement to get out into the garden and do a bit of pottering around, it seems that others might, so let’s jump right into a few ways in which gardening results in longevity.

1. Gardening boosts your Vitamin D levels.

If you do not take a Vitamin D supplement, you need to get it from the sun. Exposure to the sun for at least 30 minutes a day is a great way to get your dose of Vitamin D. According to WebMD, Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of Calcium, which is needed for bone growth (yes, it is also important in adulthood). It is also effective in lowering the risk of heart disease, depression, colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.

2. Gardening reduces stress.

Most people take up a hobby as an outlet for stress and to provide some form of relaxation. These are the very reasons why many gardeners say that they love to spend time in the garden. When gardening, the stress hormone called cortisol seems to be lowered, and this reduces the amount of stress experienced by the body.

When the body is stressed, it becomes vulnerable to disease, heart attacks, and strokes. It is also interesting to note the findings of a study carried out by the University of California, which states that reduced levels of a hormone called klotho are found in women who are chronically stressed. What is klotho? Klotho is a hormone that regulates the process of aging. The more you have of it, the better!

3. Gardening regularly provides sufficient moderate exercise.

Gardening is a great alternative to keeping fit and getting a good workout. According to WebMD, you can burn as many as 400 calories just by pulling weeds and planting flowers for approximately 1 hour. Of course, the average day in the garden involves more than just weeding and planting. Gardeners also dig, push wheelbarrows, carry heavy items, cut/trim trees, and push the lawnmower back and forth.

4. Gardening is a great mental health boost.

You might not know this, but there is a certain type of bacteria present in the soil called Mycobacterium vaccae. While digging around in the dirt, you are exposed to this bacteria, but do not worry; it is the good kind of bacteria. The bacteria boost the body’s production of serotonin (one of the happy hormones you are bound to have already heard of), which, of course, boosts your mood, relieves stress, and sends anxiety packing. Some describe Mycobacterium Vaccae as “nature’s anti-depressant”.

Another way in which gardening is great for mental health is in its potential ability to lower the risk of dementia. Relieving stress and keeping the mind busy and active are helpful in reducing the risk of dementia.

5. Gardening inspires a healthier diet.

You are probably wondering how gardening can have an impact on your actual diet, but it can. I believe that there is a lot of truth to the saying, “You are what you eat”. It stands to reason that if you eat unhealthy food, you are going to be unhealthy. People who garden on a regular basis might be prone to eating a healthier diet than those who do not garden. Why is this? It all comes down to what they are exposed to and what inspires them.

Most gardeners will set out to create a fruit and vegetable garden so that they can enjoy the fruits of their labor. As a result, a healthier diet of fresh fruits and vegetables is eaten without contamination from harmful chemical pesticides and herbicides. Wouldn’t you be more excited to eat fruits and vegetables you had planted and nurtured yourself than indulging in unhealthy, store-bought meals? A healthier diet leads to a healthier heart and better uptake of nutrients and vitamins. 

6. Gardening provides a sense of purpose.

Elderly people with seemingly “nothing” in their lives tend to acquire a “given up” attitude. After living a life that is stressed, busy, and potentially demanding, it can be hard to transition to the next stage without losing any vitality. Gardening, for many elderly people, provides meaning to life. With something to do, something to be responsible for, and something to nurture and care for, seniors want to get up, do something, and get actively involved.

An interesting article published by Reuters states that “seniors who feel their life has purpose may live longer” and many tend to agree with this. 

7. Gardening provides a chance to practice mindfulness meditation.

Mindfulness meditation is a concept and practice whereby an individual keeps their mind in the moment (and on the current activity) instead of stressing, worrying, and overthinking every other detail of their lives. Mindfulness meditation is about having authentic experiences that are meaningful.

According to the Eco Institute, mindfulness meditation can boost senior health in 5 ways by: improving memory, regulating the digestive system function, enhancing mood, sharpening and focusing the mind, and relieving stress. All of this can add to longevity in a person’s life.

8. Gardening develops compassion and strengthens relationships.

Studies have shown that people who spend an extended amount of time in nature tend to show more nurturing kindness towards other people and species. This has been seen in people who are exposed to plants regularly. It is also seen in people who are personally responsible for the wellbeing and care of sad plants

By learning to care and tend to vulnerable plants and watch them grow and thrive, as a result, seniors tend to develop a more compassionate and understanding approach to others in their lives. Seniors who experience this tend to have a stronger desire to live longer.

9. Gardening increases mobility and flexibility.

It is no secret that getting old is ‘not an easy road’. With aging come aches and pains. Suddenly, what used to be physically easy is now challenging. This can create a negative outlook, which reduces longevity. By reducing the physical discomforts of aging, seniors tend to live longer. This is the very reason why it is crucial to stay physically active for as long as possible. Gardening involves a lot of moving, stretching, reaching, and lifting, which promotes mobility and flexibility.

By keeping mobility and flexibility levels up, seniors can reduce the aches, pains, and stiffness associated with aging. A life that’s comfortable and pain-free is far easier to live out and enjoy, don’t you think?

10. Gardening provides social opportunities.

Personal social relationships lead to improved mental and physical health. As humans, we have a deep-seated desire to connect with other humans. As we get older, opportunities to socialize become few and far between. For this reason, many senior care facilities have to create opportunities for their residents.

It is a fact that adults who socialize on a regular basis are also known to live longer and enjoy a better quality of life. An excellent place for seniors to build relationships and socialize is in a garden setting. Seniors can organize gardening days or create a community garden. In some areas, there are even gardening clubs for seniors. 

Gardening Adds Years to the Lives of Seniors

I do not know about you, but I am convinced that people who garden live longer. The evidence is absolutely undisputable. Whether you are looking for a lifelong hobby that you can start right now or if you are already a senior and looking for ways to improve your quality of life and longevity, gardening is your answer.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He covers topics like spirituality, philosophy, finance, sports, games, and food. JC earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business with a Marketing Concentration at Mercyhurst University. He is a certified USPTA professional who teaches tennis in the New York City Metropolitan area. He has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.