The Hobby That Leads to a Longer Life

Medically reviewed in January 2022

A hobby is more than a way to pass the time. It may be a way to get more of it.

Know which hobby has probably added years to the longest-lived people in the world? It's gardening. Okinawans—whose men typically live to age 78, women to age 86—have a long tradition of working with soil.

Flex your green thumb
The benefits of gardening reach body and soul, according to Dan Buettner and his book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest. "It's a source of daily physical activity that exercises the body with a wide range of motion and helps reduce stress," he writes. So, as the ground thaws and the seed catalogues start arriving, make a pact to plan—and plant—a plot this year.

Grow for years
It's not a coincidence: There are lots of other wonderful side benefits to gardening besides the body and mind boost. Here are the other garden goodies Buettner notes in his book:

  • A veggie-packed life. Okinawan centenarians eat a plant-based diet, often incorporating vegetables that they grow.
  • A bit of sun. Vitamin D, produced by the body when it's exposed to sunlight, promotes stronger bones and better health.
  • A dash of spice. Mugwort, ginger, and turmeric are staples of an Okinawan garden, and all have proven medicinal qualities.
  • Take the first steps to growing younger and healthier with the RealAge Test.

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