New York Times bestselling author ‘Dan Buettner’ has studied five destinations around the world where residents are well-known for life longevity.
These five locations are labelled as ‘blue zones’ including; Sardinia in Italy, Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Loma Linda in California and Icaria in Greece. People living in these zones have a few common traits like; daily exercise, plant-based diets and social support networks. Most importantly the trait that combines all of the above is gardening. Most people living in the blue zones are gardening well into their 80’s and 90’s.
It’s no secret that living an outdoor lifestyle along with regular light physical activity is connected to a longer life. Therefore gardening definitely improves our health.
Dan Buettner – “If you garden, you’re getting some low-intensity physical activity most days, and you tend to work routinely.”
To back up these findings Dutch researchers performed an experiment that involved asking participants to do stressful tasks. When they had completed the stressful task they then split the participants into two groups. One group were outdoors gardening for 30 minutes while the other group sat indoors reading. Findings highlighted that the group who were indoors reading noticed their mood further deteriorating. Whereas the group that were outdoors gardening reported having lower levels of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’ and also felt that they had fully restored back to a good mood.
“Australian researchers following men and women in their 60s found that those who regularly gardened had a 36% lower risk of dementia than their non-gardening counterparts”.
Social interaction is another key element of longevity. Dr Bradley Willcox of the University of Hawaii states that “In Okinawa, they say that anybody who grows old healthfully needs an ikigai, or reason for living. Gardening gives you that something to get up for every day.”
Dr Willcox also mentioned that “Okinawans value the concept of yuimaru, or a high level of social connectedness. Getting together at a local market, bringing your produce and sharing your latest creations from the garden is a big social activity, this certainly helps people feel grounded and connected.”
Fact: Okinawa, Japan has the world’s highest ratio of centenarians at approximately 50 per 100,000.
The feeling of connection with other people is really important. But we also need a connection with nature. For example, a Harvard University study highlighted that people who are surrounded by greenery live longer with a decreased chance of developing cancer or respiration problems.
A clean diet is also essential for life longevity. This is something gardening can definitely help with. Food researchers have found a link between the Mediterranean diet that is full of vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, nuts olive oil and fish – with slower ageing.
Dr Bradley Willcox – “When you eat vegetables that you’ve grown yourself, it changes everything – they taste more delicious, and it really makes a difference in the health qualities (vitamins, minerals, phytoactive compounds etc.) of the food itself.”
Dan Buettner (blue zones) says “we recommend a diet of “90% plants, especially greens and beans”, and adds that “gardeners are more likely to plant what they want to eat.”
Gardening is great for you all the way around!
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