Gardening Makes You Live Longer, According To Research – How To Reap The Benefits

It's obvious that gardening makes you live longer, but it’s nice to know research supports the idea.

A smiling older man in a garden
(Image credit: Cecilie_Arcurs / Getty Images)

People garden for many reasons, from wanting to grow food at home to simply enjoying it as a hobby, but do gardeners live longer? While you might not turn to gardening specifically for this reason, research has found that living longer is one of its many benefits. Gardening includes being outdoors, connecting with nature, and being physically active, all of which are good for your physical and mental health.

Does Gardening Make You Live Longer?

The question of whether gardening makes you live longer is complicated. There are so many factors involved in a lifespan that it’s impossible to predict how long any one individual will live. However, we can pinpoint factors that increase lifespan when you look at large groups of people.

For example, exercise is an obvious factor that contributes to living longer. There are no guarantees, but someone who exercises regularly is more likely to live to an older age than someone who is sedentary.

Researchers have found that exposure to and interaction with nature has a whole host of benefits, including lower stress, better sleep, reduced obesity, better immune function, lower blood pressure, and more. It is also associated with a longer life overall. Gardening is one way to connect with nature and get these benefits, including an increased chance of living longer.

What Research Says About Gardening and Aging

Most of the research that indicates gardening could help you live longer is associated with being outdoors and in green spaces generally. Gardening is just one way to be active outdoors.

Based on what researchers know about outdoor activities, several mechanisms explain how gardening can increase your lifespan:

  • Exercise - Gardening is good exercise, and exercise increases longevity by improving physical health. Being physically active lowers blood pressure, increases muscle mass, improves dexterity and balance, and improves heart health. Compared to many types of exercise, gardening is gentle on the body.
  • Mental Health - Being outside and gardening boost mental health, reducing depression, according to research. Being in green spaces lowers anxiety, reduces stress, improves sleep, and makes people feel happier. Mental health is an important but often overlooked aspect of living longer.
  • Meaning and Purpose - Having a purpose in life can contribute to living longer. As people age, they retire or no longer have children to care for and might struggle to find meaning and purpose in their activities. Gardening is purposeful and produces concrete results. This is especially true if you work in community gardens that support area residents or food pantries.

These are the aspects of outdoor activity and gardening that have been studied and can be quantified. Many gardeners would also say there is something about getting your hands in the dirt that can’t be studied or measured. Whether connecting with nature on that level really extends your life or not might be impossible to say, but gardeners know that it is special.

How to Reap the Health Benefits of Gardening

To get the health benefits of gardening, start right in your own backyard. You don’t need to be an expert to start gardening. It’s a great activity to learn by doing. If you have health concerns, talk to your doctor first about any limitations or precautions to consider.

Anyone starting gardening as a hobby should be careful about overdoing it. Tackle a small project first and take plenty of breaks when working. Protect yourself from the sun and use the right tools to reduce the risk of injury.

For even more life-extending benefits of gardening make it a social activity. Social connections also boost longevity. Garden with family members or friends or look for a community garden to contribute to. Take gardening classes at your local extension center or volunteer to maintain gardens in public spaces.

Engaging with nature and being active outdoors is definitively good for your health in ways that can extend your life. Gardening is one of many great options for getting more outdoor time.

Mary Ellen Ellis

Mary Ellen Ellis has been gardening for over 20 years. With degrees in Chemistry and Biology, Mary Ellen's specialties are flowers, native plants, and herbs.

With contributions from