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Is Gardening Really A Key To A Long And Healthy Life?

Updated on November 15, 2009
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Great For The Beginner/On-The-Go Gardener.

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, 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 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.

copywrite © 2009.


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    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you so much Catherine R for stopping by. I'm quickly becoming aware of how little space you need to enjoy gardening. Especially for those of us limited to apartment living, I think this is a great way to bring a piece of nature inside our residence, and make it feel more of a home. With everyones wonderful comments and experiences, I am encouraged even more to start growing things in my apartment again. You have all inspired me with your wonderful experiences. Thank you Catherine for reierating the fact that we can enjoy gardening in any space - large or small.

    • Catherine R profile image

      Catherine R 

      9 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Nice hub! I am all for gardening as it brings great joy to see things grow and to create something beautiful that attracts birds as well as for the exercise. I also grow some vegetables which are organic and virtually free - as well as lots of herbs. Even when I lived in a city apartment I used to grow herbs and flowers in window boxes. I have a very productive lime tree growing in a pot - you don't need space to enjoy gardening.

    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you so much rebekahELLE for stopping by and sharing your memories with us. I am more and more convinced of the power of gardening. I hear so many stories of content and longevity attached to gardening. I'm very glad you enjoyed this and thanks for placing it on your FB page. I hope your gardener friends enjoy it as well.

    • rebekahELLE profile image


      9 years ago from Tampa Bay

      wonderful, informative hub, Veronica! I enjoyed reading it and will post it on my FB page for my gardener friends!

      while reading, I thought of my mom and dad who loved gardening and working in their yard all the way through their lives. after my dad passed, my mom spent a lot of time out in the yard planting and feeling close to him. she lived into her mid 80's. thank you for sharing! :)

    • Veronica Allen profile imageAUTHOR

      Veronica Allen 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you everyone for weighing in.

      Creativeone59 - I always love hearing from you, thanks for stopping by.

      Habee - I wished I had the chance to live in the country. I've always been a city girl and had to find alternate ways to grow a small garden. I'm not very good at it, but I'll keep trying. That's a great idea, to grow plants on your deck. It goes to show you that you can plant a garden anywhere. Thanks for stopping by.

      Hendrika - I agree with you about the benefits of gardening. I live in an apartment and have twice attempted to do apartment gardening. I loved it, though I wasn't very good at It. After doing this research however, and being reassured of its benefits, I'll probally be taking it up again. Thanks for your comments.

      Hello,hello - Hello! :) Thanks for stopping by, I always look forward to your feedback. Looks like we have something in common - our love for gardening.

      BkCreative - You have truly been blessed to be able to do some traveling, and to be aquainted with so many fascinating people. The fact that you knew a woman who lived to be over 100, and that she felt she couldn't die because she was always planning her garden, is an testimony to what this hub is all about. Once again, it's going back to nature, or back to the ground that is keeping us healthy. Thank you so much for your beautiful and detailed comments. P.S. I would love to meet such people like the Okinawans - The vast store-house of knowledge they must have.

    • BkCreative profile image


      9 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      When I lived in the suburbs I had a garden where I grew the best food - there is just no taste comparison - that is worth gardening in itself. And it's so lovely Veronica Allen to prune your flowering bushes and then bring it in to sit on the table.

      I agree with this gardening equaling long life. The last person I knew to live to be over 100 had a garden. She said she couldn't die because she was always planning her garden. Plus she grew sloes and made her own sloe gin - I had a little nip - excellent.

      Nice hub about the Okinawans. I've traveled through Asia and not only are the people overall healthier (virtually no obesity) but they enjoy a quality of life that we Americans know nothing about. Sigh!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      I agree with you whole heartily. I love gardening. Thank you for a lovely hub.

    • Hendrika profile image


      9 years ago from Pretoria, South Africa

      Thanks this is very interesting. I love gardening but I'm only able to do it on a very small scale because it is so expensive. I personally know of the good effects gardening has on your health and so I totally believe it can make you live longer.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      9 years ago from Georgia

      Good hub! I used to love gardening when we lived out in the country. Now, I still grow flowers, tomatoes, and peppers on my deck.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      9 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you Veronica for a very educational hub on Gardening. thank you for sharing this valuable information. God bless. creativeone59


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