There is a lot of evidence, most anecdotal, some scientific, about how gardeners live up to 14 years longer than non-gardeners. That’s a pretty impressive life extension and it certainly warrants further research.

National Geographic author Dan Buettner has studied this in depth by visiting what he called “blue zones” around the world- places where life expectancy is significantly longer. He studied these people and his findings are somewhat surprising. Watch a TED talk about his findings here.

Certainly, there are many factors involved, but I think there are some key things that gardeners do that could contribute to longer life:

1. Get Enough Vitamin D

Typically, gardening isn’t done at night, so while tending a garden, one is usually in the sun consistently. The body naturally produces Vitamin D from sun exposure, and since Vitamin D is protective against types of cancer and heart disease, it is logical that those with higher Vitamin D levels could live longer.

How to Get the Benefit: Even if you don’t garden, you can spend some time in the sun and get enough Vitamin D. Make sure to optimize these factors so that you are producing Vitamin D and not burning!

2. Play In the Dirt

Gardening, by its nature, means sticking your hands in the dirt. While our society shuns dirt and invents things like chemical hand sanitizer, dirt can actually be good for you! In fact, lack of dirt, and the soil borne organisms that come with it, has been linked to higher auto-immune disease.

Soil is an incredibly rich source of natural bacteria, minerals, and microorganisms. Touching the soil regularly exposes the body to beneficial (and small amounts of harmful) microorganisms that can boost the immune system. Since beneficial bacteria and gut health are so vital to overall health, it is logical that the immune boosting properties of dirt could increase longevity as well.

How to Get the Benefit: You can take probiotics and eat fermented foods, but you still won’t be exposed to the same variety of micro-organisms unless you get your hands dirty!

3. Getting Grounded

Gardeners spend time touching the earth and the soil. According to the book Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever, this alone could have tremendous benefit.

The theory is that many of us rarely or never touch the earth with bare skin, and certainly not for extended periods of time. This leads to a build up of positive electrons in the body from electrical energy, electromagnetic frequencies, WI-FI and more. The earth acts as a ground, just as it does for electrical outlets, reducing the extra positive charge.

The author speculates that this build-up and lack of contact with the earth can lead to inflammation and disease. Gardeners, by touching the earth are “grounding” themselves and removing this extra charge.

How to Get the Benefit: Walk around barefoot outside for at least 20 minutes a day or use an Earthing Mat when sleeping.

4. Stress Relief

Many gardeners cite relaxation and stress relief as reasons that they garden. Stress negatively affects hormones and increases risk of disease, so having a positive outlet for stress is tremendously beneficial for health. Balancing stress hormones has a positive effect on everything from blood pressure, to cortisol levels to inflammation.

How to Get the Benefit: Regularly make time to do something relaxing that you enjoy, preferably outside.

5. They Eat Vegetables

Logically, gardeners often grow vegetables, which means that logically, they also probably eat them. Consumption of more vegetables and less processed foods means more nutrients, antioxidants and less toxins. Win-win.

How to Get the Benefit: Eat a lot of vegetables… ’nuff said.

6. They Exercise

Lifting plants and soil, raking, and digging… it all requires low-level activity and weight lifting. These activities provide the positive benefits of exercise in a relaxing and sustainable way. Another win-win.

How to Get the Benefit: Every week, make time for exercises like heavy lifting and light exercise like swimming, hiking, or walking.

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  • In most cases, we earth ourselves when we shower, touch a metal tap, touch running water from a tap, as well as touching the earth.
    Discharge to earth is also quite efficient in Queensland humidity, no matter how insulated your feet are from ground - that all changes when we get those dry westerly winds.

    I would speculate that in most cases, when you go out to garden, you remove yourself from exposure to higher levels of electromagnetic radiation and in turn, electrostatic fields (generally, levels drop x4 each time you double the distance from a source assuming there are no directional em transmission sources pointing your way).
    These em waves can interact (in one way or another) with things they come in contact with, regardless of grounding (although grounding determines what happens next). I believe that it's a good thing to have a 'distance break' (that means outta the house and, sun-smartly into the yard) from the household sources.

    Some sources of intended frequency electromagnetic radiation - cordless phones, mobile phones/towers, wifi, 2 way radios, bulb/visible light (considered quite useful and at a natural intensity quite safe), uv light (lower end/frequency of harmful ionizing radiation).

    Some sources of em induced electrostatic fields - active 240v wiring, electric/electronic equipment, RF transmitters, overhead power lines, battery chargers, microwave ovens. These are also sources of electromagnetic radiation (em).

    I'm not saying that these things definitely cause illness, nor am I saying we should drop our tablets/smart phones and run to the hills, I just enjoy a break from proximity to that stuff every now and then. By getting out of a house/building, you also get a break from a more contained environment which can accrue anything nasty that's hanging around in the dwelling's air (assuming that there is acceptable air quality outside).
    • Oops, 20+ years since study on this subject has had its toll. That combined with too much rambling.
      Just did some reading, If I change the term above from electrostatic field, and to electric field, and combine the 2 statements regarding sources, I would be more correct. I was (in a confusing manner) trying to explain the near field and far field properties of electromagnetic radiation relative to a transmitting source (and focusing on the electric field component).

      Lissa, static electricity has less complexity and interactions than electromagnetic radiation and is easier to summarize...
      Electrons have a negative charge.
      The static charges experienced by us (especially in low humidity) most of the times is caused by 2 objects (usually of different composition) rubbing/moving-with-contact-relative-to-one-another.
      One source gains electrons from the other source. This results with one object having a more positive charge relative to its surroundings (and each other) and the other object having a more negative charge.
      When you allow the charged object to come into contact with a neutral (earth is a good example) or oppositely charged object, there is a flow of electrons from one object to the other, this is the static electricity discharge. If the charge is high enough, it can break down the insulation properties of air and cause the 'static electricity zap' before the objects come into contact with each other.

      When you Brush you hair with a plastic comb, or your arm hairs rub against your clothing (effectiveness varies on material type), your hairs pick up electrons from the other source, as a result your body gets a negative charge and holds it for a period of time. The time you hold the charge varies with how well insulated you are from anything else (especially earth), how well the clothing dissipates (or holds) it's opposite charge to something other than your body. So long as you still have a charge (usually negative, that is you have extra electrons relative to surroundings), you can sneak up on Andy, place your finger close to his ear, and without making contact transfer your extra electrons across a small air gap and watch him jump with the sudden fright. You'll probably see a spark and hear a crack when this happens. Dry conditions allow you to hold the charge for longer periods of time. A lot of the time the humidity in the air will discharge you before you can achieve this, even if your fast.
      Note. No Andys were harmed during the making of this hypothetical.

      Moving cars, planes and trains can build up static charges due to the moving vehicle continuously rubbing against air particles.

      Below are other fun nerdy things you can do to observe static electricity.

      You can bend water with this same static electric charge.
      Water is dipolar, one end of a water molecule is more positive and the other end more negative.
      On a dry winter's day,
      1. Turn a tap on slowly and stop when you get a narrow continuous column of water.
      2. Rub a glass rod or plastic rod or even plastic comb or ruler back and forth against your hair.
      3. Slowly move the plastic closer to the column of water, if the plastic still holds charge, you will observe the water column bend torwards the plastic object.
      I have not done this for some time, but I can recall getting the water column to move/bend centimeters with a good charge.

      On a dry day, rub a balloon on you hair, contact it with the ceiling, take you hand away and see the balloon stay stuck to the ceiling.

      On those same dry evenings when you take your jumper/jacket/dressing gown off, and you hear the crackle, turn the light off and watch how much spark within the different charged zones on the same piece of clothing occurs, it can be quite visually impressive.

      Sorry, drifted way of subject now.
      • Oooh good science experiments!

        I'll try to remember them for when my grandson comes to visit. Don't own a plastic comb just a plastic brush. Hopefully that will work. Might dissipate the charge too much.

        I'm a bit in awe of your large brain now Rob lol.

    • Good heavens Rob, you really know your stuff.

      I would suggest they dumbed it down for the article to just "earth yourself with the soil" as too much of the above knowledge would go over most peoples heads.

      I often get full of static electricity - especially on those windy days. Any comments on that Rob? I touch a car or a person and get a shock.

      • Probably why it feels so good to walk around barefoot in the garden .Must excuse me got some seeds to plant lol

        • Walking around barefoot in my yard where two dogs live isn't such a nice feeling sometimes.

      • That static really gets me too - tap water even. Yet Elaine R hardly ever feels any of that. Weird, huh?

        • Oh Elaine some of us just have that sparkle, and some of us don't....

          • I could do without it ;-)

  • Very interesting article, I would like to read more about this, I too have an auto immune disease so do know how important it is to stay as healthy and stress free as possible. I feel we need to have an open mind and think outside the norm? Your health is your wealth.

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