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The Plantita Plan for Healthy Aging: Is Gardening the Key to a Long Life?

The Plantita Plan for Healthy Aging: Is Gardening the Key to a Long Life?

As we grow older, the importance of a healthy lifestyle and diet come into focus. We take up yoga or distance running to keep ourselves active. And we pay closer attention to what — and how much — we eat. Many of us also take up gardening for its benefits to our physical and mental health. And according to research by Dan Buettner on communities with centenarians1, it is precisely these benefits of gardening that could lead to a longer life.

The Secret (Gardens) of Long Life

In 2012, Dan Buettner, together with National Geographic, published research on communities with the oldest individuals on the planet, many of them living well past 100 years of age2. The researchers studied people from 5 places — Okinawa, Sardinia, Greece, America, and Costa Rica — dubbed “Blue Zones.”

Their findings? The research highlighted 9 behaviors that people in these long-lived communities shared, calling them the Blue Zone Power 92.

Many of these behaviors were exactly what you’d expect: People living in Blue Zones ate healthy, led relatively active lifestyles, and drank alcohol in moderation. These findings were in line with a 30-year long Harvard study that looked at the connection between diet and morbidity.

The Harvard study recommended 5 habits that can lengthen a person’s life3:

  1. Eat healthy.
  2. Exercise daily.
  3. Maintain a healthy weight.
  4. Drink moderately.
  5. Don’t smoke.

What’s interesting is that Buettner’s Blue Zones study singled out gardening as a contributing factor for many of the communities’ healthy habits. For example, many of the people in these communities led active lifestyles because they were gardening.

Benefits of Gardening for Healthy Aging

The benefits of gardening go deeper than simply forcing us to be more active. It threads many other behaviors that have a positive effect on aging, such as spending time outdoors and eating healthy food.

1. Active Lifestyle

The Buettner study refers to an active lifestyle as “moving naturally,” noting that people in these communities “live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it.” Simply put, instead of going to the gym, they go outdoors to tend their gardens or do housework.

2. Less Stress

Gardening naturally leads us outdoors. And this exposure to the environment has been found to have positive effects on health. Sunlight lowers blood pressure and improves vitamin D levels4. A study also found that gardening led to lower salivary cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and an improvement in reported mood5.

Even just looking at nature has been found to have positive effects. In one study, recovering patients who had a window with a view of nature were found to have shorter postoperative hospital stays. Remarkably, they also took fewer potent analgesics than patients in similar rooms with windows facing a brick building wall6.

3. Healthy Eating

Another natural benefit of gardening is that you tend to eat what you grow. And because vegetables and fruits are precisely what your diet needs, gardening leads to a healthier diet.

In particular, beans, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets2.

The Harvard study on diet points to a number of dietary risk factors that lead to mortality. These are diets high in sodium, low in whole grains, low in fruit, low in nuts and seeds, low in vegetables, and low in omega-3 fatty acids3. All of these suboptimal diets can be addressed by eating more fruits and vegetables as well as eating smaller portions.

Key Takeaway

Yes, your plantita tendencies can actually lead to a longer life. The benefits of gardening can go beyond maintaining your mental health. Gardening complements habits that contribute to healthy aging, such as leading an active lifestyle, eating healthy food, and reducing stress in your life.

Learn more about Healthy Aging here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


1 Blue Zones: Lessons From the World’s Longest Lived, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1559827616637066, Accessed October 5, 2021

2 Power 9 Reverse Engineering Longevity, https://www.bluezones.com/2016/11/power-9/, Accessed October 5, 2021

3 Health effects of dietary risks in 195 countries, 1990–2017: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2017, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(19)30041-8/fulltext, Accessed October 5, 2021

4 Gardening for health: a regular dose of gardening, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6334070/, Accessed October 5, 2021

5 Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20522508/, Accessed October 5, 2021

6 View through a window may influence recovery from surgery, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6143402/, Accessed October 5, 2021



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Written by Cesar Beltran Updated 2 weeks ago
Fact Checked by Hello Doctor Medical Panel