- Aging & Longevity
Is Gardening Really A Key To A Long And Healthy Life?
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In 2006, the islands of Okinawa, Japan, were estimated to have nearly 740 centenarians (a person has reached 100 years or over) out of a population of 1.3 million.
According to the Okinawa Centenarian Study, headed by Dr. Makoto Suzuki - a cardiologist, geriatrician, and former Director of the Department of Community Medicine at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan - this figure represents about 50 centenarians for every 100,000 people!
To show the significance of that statistic, in most developed lands, the ratio is thought to be between only 10 and 20 per 100,000.
This 30 year ongoing study; which "is the longest continuously running centenarian study in the world" (The Okinawa Centenarian Study: The Research Team at http://www.okicent.org/team.html), also found that "an unusual number of centenarians (were) in extraordinarily healthy shape."
What's Their Secret?
In addition to genetics - which definitely was a major factor - a healthy lifestyle that included a good diet, no tobacco, moderate use of alcohol, a positive attitude, and keeping physically active.
Amongst the several physical activities listed to keep the centenarians living long and healthy lives; gardening was included.
* Gardening's Link To Your Physical Health And Longevity - What The Research Shows.
A 2005, London's Independent newspaper reported that researchers had found evidence that "gardening is good for your health, reducing stress levels, lowering blood pressure and even helping you live longer."
A 1999 archival article from The Physical Activity Guide, by Health Canada (Public Health Agency Of Canada) stated that; "Physical activity doesn't have to be very hard to improve your health, you can improve your fitness and your heart by doing light activity for 10-minute periods and add them up for an hour's worth each day."
What were some of the recommend activities? In addition to walking, stretching, and stair climbing; gardening made the list as well.
Some experts even say that in addition to being rewarding and absorbing, gardening may even provide better exercise than going to the gym (although that may lay in one's own personal perception).
This is due to the fact that "activities such as digging and raking, are good steady exercise which burns more calories than cycling," according to author Gay Search of such books as The Healing Garden:Gardening for The Mind, Body, and Soul; The Impatient Gardener; "Gardner's World", Through The Years; and Gardening Without A Garden.
The conclusion - a healthier lifestyle often leads to a longer, more productive life.
* Gardening's Link To The Health And Longevity Of The Elderly.
Research has also shown that tending and caring for a garden benefits the elderly as well.
Dr. Brigid Boardman, an academic and speaker for the Royal Horticultural Society stated, "the garden provides an antidote to the pain and frustration" experienced during old age.
In addition, "the need to be in control is met by our control of what we plant, how we plan the garden, and how it is tended. And the need (for the elderly) to care is again fulfilled."
Once this need has been met, a healthier physicality and healthier mental attitude tends to lead to a longer, healthier, happier life.
And what of the physical aspects?
As far back as 1999, the National Institute Of Aging's (NIA) booklet Don't Take It Easy: Exercise! impressed on the elderly, the need of getting and staying active to achieve a long life full of vitality and stealth.
In addition to several activities recommended, activities such as: "Raking leaves, playing actively with (grand) children, (and) gardening," were listed.
To further link the importance of the elderly remaining active, to a long, healthy life, an 1992 archival issue of Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, urged: "It's important to get in the habit of looking for ways to be active." It added: "Even low-intensity activities performed daily can have some long-term health benefits and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Such activities include walking for pleasure, gardening, yard work, house work, dancing and prescribed home exercise."
In the end, it's these types of moderate physical activity, that can help the elderly to regain their strength and vitality - thus leading to a longer and healthier life.
* Mental, Physical, And Emotional Illnesses - How Gardening Effects These Outcomes.
Realistically, gardening shouldn't be considered a cure-all. Nevertheless, it's benefits are worthy of mentioning.
Excluding unforeseen circumstances, it is common knowledge that one's mental, emotional, and physical well-being has a major bearing on how long a person lives, and how healthy they may be.
A.) Gardening's Link To Mental And Emotional Health.
Research has also showed that those suffering from mental and emotional health issues often feel relaxed when working and surrounding themselves in a beautiful, peaceful environment.
In addition, growing flowers or food for others may help these individuals regain confidence and self-respect.
According to Lisa Ann Schleipfer, a www.suite101.com contributing writer, a non-profit UK gardening organization published three independent research studies that stated gardening's effect on a person's overall well-being.
The research supported the notion that gardening possess the ability to not only help a person's overall well-being, but may also improve the health of those who suffer from a disability or mental illness.
B.) Gardening's Effect On The Seriously Ill.
A German newspaper, Giebener Allgemeine, reported in 2005 that "gardening brings people the most zest for life after a stroke." In addition, six months after being released from rehabilitation, after being asked which activities brought them contentment, the 70 patients who suffered from a stroke listed gardening has the only activity that brought about increasing contentment in their lives.
In addition to bringing a high level of contentment, occupational therapist Brigitte Oberauer stated that gardening "makes it easier for stroke patients to focus on certain things and to keep concentrating. It busies the senses and delivers the message that new things are growing and life goes on. This is an important message after a serious illness."
Once again, one's mental, physical, and emotional state can be directly linked to one's overall well-being and longevity - and gardening seems to make a strong and positive impact.
* Gardening And You.
It's clear from this information that gardening is good for you. Though not a cure-all, it's definitely a good addition to the measures you already may be taking for a healthier way of living.
But what of those who's lifestyle doesn't seem to fit with the gardening way of life such as apartment living, or an extremely busy life-style?
Don't fret, there are a bevy of ways around these barriers. With resources showing you how to apartment, rooftop, kitchen, community, vertical, or container garden, and resources for the on-the-go or beginner gardener, you can garden your way to a long and healthy life.
*(here are a few resources found right here at hubpages:
Unfortunately, there's no magic pill for longevity, but in addition to good genes, a good diet, good habits, exercise, healthy ways of coping with stress, and some occasional or regular gardening thrown in for good measure - you too may find the key to a long and healthy life.
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