7 Ways Gardening Can Help You Live To 100

Did you know Dr. John Bidgood grew up on a general farm near Ottawa before attending Dentistry at University of Toronto, and moving west to Victoria with Dr. Judy in 1973?

They have always loved gardening. Both indoors and outdoors – but especially outdoors!

In semi-retirement Dr. Bidgood gardens at home, and wherever he thinks he can improve a spot with the addition of some flowers, he does! You may have seen the row of Rhododendrons he planted and maintains on the May Street side of Moss Healthcare Centre by the bus stop?

Living to 100 is more likely in this century than at any other time in history. But being a healthy 100 is best. And gardening really can help.

Dr. Bidgood used to joke with patients that he had a goal of “100 and Healthy!”

Then one day an elderly gentleman replied, “I used to think like that!” He paused, with a twinkle in the eye, and smiled, “but now I add 10% ‘for inflation!”

One of Dr. Bidgood’s senior patients did live to a very healthy 104 years – and attended health appointments regularly!

We hope you will enjoy the following “7 ways!”

Participating in gardening activities on a regular basis has a significantly positive impact on your health.

How do we know?

It’s science!

The results of a meta-analysis [1] of research examining the effects of gardening (including horticultural therapy) on health, provided robust evidence for the positive impact that being outside in nature has on human health and wellbeing.[i]

Let’s look at some facts about Canadians and health.

Today, Canadians of every age are living predominantly sedentary lifestyles and spending too much time indoors. Electronics, video games, television, cell phones, and computers consume hours of human energy – energy that is frequently fuelled by high fat and sugar-based carbohydrate (think junk food) diets.

Those living in urban environments are also exposed to pollutants and other environmental factors that can make them ill.

Stroke, diabetes, heart disease, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and dementia, are among the most common ailments, while the latest statistics show that 34% of Canadian adults will be obese by 2025.[ii]

That’s 10 million of us.

So how does something as simple as digging around in the garden help?

Here are 7 benefits of getting down and grubby in the dirt.

  1. Nature is a mood booster and stress reliever. Imagine walking through the sun-dappled forest, across a grassy meadow, or into a lovely garden blooming with roses. For many of us, being closer to nature is calming.

Flowers lift your spirits and, if you’ve grown them yourself, even better. Fragrant and colourful, they attract a wonder of butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds, a testament to our contribution to the cycle of life.

Being in the garden, with your hands in warm soil, and the scent of mulch, cedar, and loam infusing the air is a heady experience. It’s easy (and relaxing) to slip into a meditative space as you breathe the sweet air while imagining how beautiful your garden will be. Positivity is healthy and even spiritual.

  1. Working in the garden is also calorie burning muscle-building exercise. Digging holes for plants, pulling weeds, pruning roses, and staking vines, will get you moving. It’s hard work, and as any seasoned gardener will tell you, a warm bath in some Epsom salts may be necessary to ease a beginner’s aches.
  2. Gardening helps to strengthen bones. Osteoporosis Canada writes: “A major benefit of gardening is a healthy total body workout that includes weight-bearing and resistance activities. Gardening usually involves walking, squatting, kneeling, digging, pulling and lifting, and all done out in the fresh air. As you hoe, plant, water, weed and harvest, your body engages in effective weight-bearing and resistance activities that contribute to good bone health – as long as you start slowly and move safely.” [iii]
  3. You can grow food! Pesticide-free, vegetables that you’ve grown yourself are unmatched in freshness and taste. Some of the most delicious, nutritious veggies are easy to grow. Green beans, tomatoes, zucchini, chard, kale, lettuce, radishes, carrots, green onions, micro-greens, and more. You’re limited only by the size of your garden. Say good-bye to fast food!

Love fruit? Raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries are fruits that do well in home gardens.

  1. Your children will benefit too. They’ll be outside in the fresh air and sunshine discovering earthworms and caterpillars, ants and beetles. And they will learn more about where real food comes from. Kids love to eat what they’ve grown themselves, and they even benefit from being exposed to soil at an early age.

The “hygiene hypothesis” suggests that children raised in microbe-rich environments—with pets, on farms, or attending daycare—have a lower risk of allergic disease than kids raised in more sterile environments. Bonus! Kids love to get dirty.

  1. Your body needs Vitamin D – and you’ll get plenty of that bone building, mood lifting, and immunity-strengthening vitamin outside in your garden. Just remember to wear a hat and sunscreen. And drink plenty of water.
  2. You won’t be lonely! When you harvest your veggies, you’ll make new friends. People love to share their abundance of garden produce as summer ends and the vines become heavy with ripe tomatoes and zucchini.

Urban gardeners sharing community plots often plan for a greater variety of edibles by determining which gardener will grow certain plants. That way everyone takes home the fixings for a big pot of vegetable soup!

What if you don’t have a garden?

Join your neighbours! Or, be like Dr. Bidgood and grow things at the corner bus stop!

Community and allotment gardens are all around the Greater Victoria Area and you can even start your own!

Garden or not, just get outside.

We are fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful places in Canada and have many ways to reap the benefits of being outdoors. Horticultural therapy – the do it yourself version – is one way, but hiking a forest trail, cycling the Galloping Goose, strolling through Butchart Gardens, or walking through your neighbourhood admiring other peoples’ gardens will lift your spirits, get you moving, and bring you closer to living to 100!

Embrace good health holistically.

If you or a loved one is living with depression, diabetes, weight issues, anxiety, or any of the challenges mentioned in this post, please consider making an appointment with one of our healthcare specialists.

Our team promotes holistic wellness – inside and out.

Please look for more local gardening improvements as we “Grow” at Moss Street Healthcare Centre!

  • [1] A meta-analysis is a survey in which the results of the studies included in the review are statistically similar and are combined and analyzed as if they were one study.
  • [i] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5153451/
  • [ii] https://globalnews.ca/news/3794111/canada-obesity-illness-costs/
  • [iii] https://www.osteoporosis.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015-04-22-COPING-FINAL.pdf