How to live to be 100: color your thumb GREEN

The “blue zones”, where people live the longest: Okinawa, Japan – Nicoya, Costa Rica – Icaria, Greece – Loma Linda, California and Sardinia, Italy have 4 things in common:

  1. Lots of social support
  2. Daily exercise
  3. A plant based diet
  4. People who garden into their 80’s and 90’s!

So is there a reason people with “green thumbs” live longer?

Gardening is a popular hobby, and something the world’s oldest living people have in common. “. . . the analogy of a chair: diet, physical activity, mental engagement and social connection are the four legs. If you’re missing a chair leg  you fall out of balance, and it can shorten life expectancy. Longevity isn’t about one single factor . . . “*Maybe you should take it up (if you haven’t already).

Keep your mood up

Being outdoors lifts your mood and moderate exercise is correlated with a longer life. Gardening gives you both . . . continually.   It doesn’t matter if you plant flowers, vegetables or hedges.  All gardens need tending, so people who garden get all the benefits of exercise and sunshine regularly.

There is evidence that gardeners live longer and are less stressed and studies show both physical and mental health benefits from gardening:

  • In a Dutch study, people who read for half an hour after having experienced a stressful task reported their mood had gotten worse, while those who gardened instead of reading, “not only had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol afterwards, they also felt “fully restored” to a good mood.”
  • Australian researchers found that people in their 60s who regularly gardened had a 36% lower risk of dementia than their non-gardening counterparts. Even people with cognitive issues benefit. Fresh air and sunshine have a calming effect.
  • In Okinawa, which has the highest ratio of people over 100, Dr Bradley Willcox of the University of Hawaii says it is believed there that  “anybody who grows old healthfully needs an ikigai, or reason for living. Gardening gives you that something to get up for every day.” Residents also value a lot of social interaction, such as sharing what you have grown at the local market.
  • People who are surrounded by lush greenery live longer, according to a Harvard University study. When you garden, you create greenery all around you. Even a small garden lets you be in touch with nature.

There’s a simple truth: gardeners are more likely to plant what they want to eat.

You are likely to eat more vegetables and fruit, which are a big part of the kind of diet that is associated with longevity.  And you know exactly what pesticides, if any, you have sprayed onto the food.

If you’re ready for a job change . . .

There’s evidence that farming is one of the healthiest careers.  Farmers:

  • have fewer chronic illnesses (by a third)
  • are less likely to see a doctor
  • are less likely to die of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes than the population as a whole.
  • work later into life
  • live longer

No land?  Buy container pots!

or move to Okinawa, Japan – Nicoya, Costa Rica – Icaria, Greece – Loma Linda, California or Sardinia, Italy


*Dr Bradley Willcox of the University of Hawaii studies

2 comments on “How to live to be 100: color your thumb GREEN

  1. I can’t garden – the local rats, opossums, raccoons, squirrels think I’ve opened them a supermarket.
    How about if I paint flowers and fruit?
    I find that painting relieves my stress levels.
    But this is a fascinating article – growing food is good for the world in so many ways.


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