I recall a conversation I had with neighbors when we all landed at our mailboxes at the same time. As we were talking we watched another neighbor mow his lawn and my neighbor to the left said, "Oh dear…we should pitch in and get Mr. So and So a gardening service."
As a gardener myself my reply was something like, "Are you kidding? Mowing the lawn every week is the best thing for him."
Mr. So and So was 92 at the time and not only mowed and watered his lawn, but pruned his trees and planted new plants. He is still the source of my best tomatoes.
As it turns out, gardening can help you live up to 14 years longer, according to National Geographic writer Dan Buettner, author of the New York Times bestselling book, "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest." Blue Zones are the longevity hotspots of the world.
Buettner took teams of research scientists into places such as Sardinia, Italy, Okinawa, Japan and a particular community of Seventh-Day Adventists in Los Angeles to indentify nine habits that make these people the longest lived in the world.
Veggie rich diets, eating less and purposeful activities were a common thread. None of the centenarians did strenuous gym exercises, took supplements or pills.
Buettner said in an interview, "Many Americans exercise too hard. The life expectancy of our species for 99.9% of human history was about 30 years. The fact that medicine has pushed life expectancy to age 78 doesn't mean our bodies were designed for three-quarters of a century of pounding.
"The world's longest-lived people tend to do regular, low intensity physical activity like walking with friends and gardening."
The longest lived people also thrive in circumstances that cause them to get up every day to chop the firewood, weed the garden or walk to the village for their needs.
Continual moderate exercise such as gardening was found in many of the Blue Zone communities. Gardeners not only get mild daily exercise, but Buettner wrote of the added benefits of a veggie rich diet and plenty of vitamin D from their daily dose of sunshine.
Oh yeah, and they take a daily nap. Ever meet a gardener who didn't nap? Me neither.