Can gardening extend our lives? A question from Ignacio.

Finally, we, Ignacio and Nora my wife are retired from a life of truck driving and nursing. Now we can turn to our dream of passing our time in the garden and growing an abundance of flora, fruit and vegetables. I was wondering if by taking up this new occupation could we actually extend our lives. So I investigated, and this is what I found out.

There is evidence that certain things that gardeners do will contribute to a longer life.

The evidence I came across was a mixture of scientific and anecdotal in nature, but they all seemed to point to the conclusion that gardeners can live as much as 14 years longer than non-gardeners.

A study I came across came to the conclusion that the long term benefits on our brains that garden daily would be the single most effective activity in reducing the risk of dementia.

Apparently, we can enjoy the various health benefits such as increased endurance and strength, dexterity, learning, sensory function and problem-solving skills.

I thought the above was pretty impressive and something I wished to experience. I have always hankered for the quiet life of pottering around a beautifully landscaped garden.

But, with the forty odd years behind my beloved Kenworth truck and the thousands of miles I had covered, gardening was always a dream to help me pass the time of solitude and boredom between Cali and Bogota.

Nora, my beautiful, loving wife, had told me often, that working in the sun on a consistent basis such as gardening will allow your ample body to produce a high level of vitamin D naturally.

“This vitamin D helps to protect you from various types of cancer and assists with lowering the threat of heart disease.” She then added; “Now that you have almost lost your truck driver’s belly, adding vitamin D through gardening seems a great thing to do.”

I replied with tongue in cheek “Yes and it gets me out of the house and out of trouble with my wife.”

Nora laughed punching me playfully in my pot belly. “Yes, I would love to see you more in our garden working and less of your belly.”

Now do not get me wrong, neither of us is advocating spending 12 to 14 hours a day outside sunbathing and burning up under the extreme sun, exposure your self to those harmful rays.

We mean in moderation the risk will not increase the risk of cancer. Nora through her life working as a nurse in a tropical country believes obtaining vitamin D from sun exposure has links to lowering the risk of many cancers including skin cancer.

Getting your hands dirty with the soil when it is full of incredibly natural bacteria, microorganisms and minerals is a must.

Have you ever thought of all that goodness that is waiting for your hands to discover when gardening? If it is a vital source for worms and plants, then it stands to reason it must also be beneficial for us humans too.

Everyone is obsessed with being ultra clean. Everyone shuns getting dirty and prefers to cover their skin in chemical hand sanitisers, none of which by design are natural sources of microorganisms that can boost your immune system. Some can assist you with the symptoms of asthma, allergies and psoriasis.

Counteract your build up of positive electrons in your body from your daily exposure of electrical energy, mobile electromagnetic frequencies and the Wi-Fi world we all live in.

It stands to reason gardeners will spend long periods touching our earth and the soil within. There is a theory that many people around the world never feel the earth or land from one day to the next.

Indeed, the majority of people who live in apartments and townhouses with no access to a garden. By not having that fundamentally important connection with the earth that gardeners enjoy means each “Townie” will build up a significant level of positive electrons in their bodies.

By working with the earth in your garden allows you the gardener the opportunity to the benefit of “Grounding” yourselves to rid this extra charge at no cost to yourselves.

Nora has got me walking around outside for at least 20 minutes per day. I am worried about the scorpions in this part of the world!

Driving a huge truck with a forty-foot container through the mindless hours of negotiating the other poorly trained drivers here in South America is guaranteed to raise anyone’s stress levels.

Combating that stress is crucial to aiding your longevity of life. I have discovered the beauty of gardening and find it so therapeutic. Apart from the benefits, you get from losing weight associated with blood pressure, diabetes and inflammation conditions,

I see myself smiling more as I feel so much more relaxed and being outside listening to the birds singing and watching the family cat tirelessly chasing anything that moves. Deep down I knew in my heart I am a more relaxed person than ever before.

Nora has always managed a small allotment where she grew our supply of Yucca and other vegetables.

                   Close up view of the cassava root.

Our favourite vegetable we call yucca which many around the world call Cassava root is always growing in Nora’s vegetable plot. It tastes like potatoes with an extra texture to die for. It does not matter how you cook or serve it, the texture always grabs you more than a potato does.

I salivate the moment I see roasted yucca, just like the Brits, who with equal measure love their roasted parsnips.

Nora instilled in me from very early on in our long marriage, the importance of consuming lots of vegetables and less eating processed foods.

I often remember her lectures on the importance of growing our own vegetables. She had learned from her father and his father you should always ensure your soil is healthy. No pesticides and only ate the fruit and vegetables when they were ripened.

“We and that will include our children will greatly increase our health levels. Not only that, but there is also the benefit of cost having a cost-effective solution versus purchasing expensive organic produce from our local shops and supermarkets.

Luckily for us, we love yucca and carrots, both full of nutrients, antioxidants and fewer levels of toxins. A definite win for Nora and me.

We are also fortunate with living high up on the ridge overlooking the city below. We have lost count of how many fruit trees that surround our hacienda. Nora was adamant in the first year living here of the need to plant plantain (similar looking to bananas) orange and lemon trees.

A couple of years ago she added our first grape and grapefruit tree. She plans in a couple of years to have a small crop for winemaking.

I love the introduction of lifting plants, shrubs, raking and digging the soil. At long last, I am exercising regularly.

Sounds harsh for a 63-year old to take up exercising so late in life, and I did find it difficult in the beginning. But, with good judgement and only using a degree of low-level activity, including weightlifting of plants that I felt comfortable with.

I always tested the weight prior to carrying them from one place to another. Never overexerting myself meant I soon felt the benefit of exercising in a relaxing and surprising to me,  sustainable way.

So there you have it, Nora was right all along. Gardening is fantastic for all.

I can vouch that already I can see that gardening can help simulate my mental health. With the mixture of physical activity, sunlight, surrounded by nature (my favourite) and the satisfaction of getting each job done.

Walking or sitting with Nora within our garden of plants and flowers, some to nourish our senses and others to appeal visually.

Hopefully for those who have not yet experienced the benefits and wellbeing of passing the time in their own garden, When you do, remember what we Nora and Ignacio found can so easily be yours, You too can extend your lives by including your garden in your everyday life.

I hope to write again soon. In the meantime check out all the other blogs and articles listed on mikebowley.com and head to further adventures on Mike’s work listed on Wattpad.com.

 

March 2019

Ignacio

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