Replace the phone / tablet / remote control with a gardening fork and you could be well on the way to a healthier, happier and longer life.
Forget living long enough to see your grandkids, how about seeing their grandkids?
Well that could be slightly ambitious, but gardening offers plenty of short and long-term health benefits.
It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s longest living citizens in Japan, Costa Rica and Greece spend significant parts of their lives in some kind of gardening pursuit.
This could be managing a veggie patch, planting trees around town (with permission of course) or simply looking after a few plants around the house.
Here are some of the green-fingered benefits.
Dutch researchers tested the stress levels of gardeners and non-gardeners. Both groups were given a series of tests designed to increase stress levels.
After the tests each group was given 30 minutes to either garden or read quietly.
You can see where this is going – the gardeners’ relaxation levels were fully restored while the other group’s moods worsened.
The feeling of accomplishment and of doing something worthwhile does wonders for a sense of well-being.
At the very least being at work in the garden takes your mind off things in a healthy and constructive way.
A study by researchers in Philadelphia showed that those engaged in regular gardening found life more satisfying and fulfilling than those who didn’t.
The basic process of contributing to something positive such as the growth of plants and vegetables is a good thing.
Lowered risks of dementia
A study in Australia on people in their 60s found the risk of dementia was lowered by 34% amongst those engaged in regular gardening activities.
Working on a garden calls for creativity and planning which is excellent for keeping the mind active and engaged.
Strong hands, strong body.
Apart from promoting serious hand strength (it’s you they turn to for opening jars), gardening offers plenty of other physical benefits.
Being outside provides direct access to fresh air and natural light. This calls on our good friend Vitamin D which is crucial in regulating calcium for bone strength and building resistance against disease.
At the very least gardening provides light to moderate exercise and in some cases there can be serious calorie burning.
Plenty of bending, stretching and even lifting. Digging, pushing a wheelbarrow or carting around heavy plants all up the ante.
Deadlift that bag of fertilizer – eyes in front, chest up…etc.
Often overlooked is the social interaction that also comes with your garden labors.
It might be getting together with a group to work on a local project or simply tending to some flowers or tomatoes with the family.
Even if you’re doing it alone there are now endless opportunities to chat with fellow gardeners, sharing tips and ideas.
“Ikigai” is a saying in Japan meaning “a reason to live” or a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
It is especially embraced in the southern islands of Okinawa where gardening communities are a strong part of daily life.
No surprises that Okinawa folk have some of the world’s longest life expectancies, rich lives at that.
The textbook of life
You could stand at a whiteboard lecturing kids to sleep or simply lead them outdoors.
Gardening gives children a hands-on insight into the cycles of nature and life sciences.
By actually engaging in the process, children gain new skills plus an understanding and appreciation of the production of healthy foods.
Best of all, gardening is a relatively cheap pursuit and even if the expenses start to add up it hardly feels like you’re throwing money away.
Find yourself some gloves and a trowel. You’re ready.