Community gardens: A healthy life trifecta

Community gardening has several components of a high-quality lifestyle that could lead to a longer, healthier life.

A Blue Zone is a concept developed by demographers Gianni Pes and Michael Poulain, who identified four parts of the world - Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; the Nicoyan peninsula in Costa Rica; Icaria, Greece;  and Loma Linda, Calif. - where people reach age 100 at rates significantly higher, and on average, live longer, healthier lives than most Americans.

Dan Buettner took that research and founded the company Blue Zones, which analyzes these and other regions to find practies to help people live longer and healthier lives. Buettner details his research in his book Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, where he discusses nine common components to all these healthy regions, and three of the components are intrinsic to community gardening.

The healthy lifestyle components or themes you naturally achieve through community gardening are moving naturally, a plant-based diet, and being socially active with the right tribe that shares your healthy values.

Working in a garden requires frequent, low-intensity, full range-of-motion activity, and corresponds to the theme of moving naturally as part of a daily routine. Gardening is also a nurturing act that increases beauty and gives you access to fresh produce.

And that brings us to the second healthy lifestyle theme—a plant-based diet. Putting effort into growing fruits and vegetables often creates a natural motivation to eat them, and eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains is not only recommended by a National Geographic study of the Blue Zones, but also by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Michigan State University Extension.

Community gardening has a quality that is unique to all other types of gardening—it has a social component. People active in a community garden often share similar values about eating healthfully and being active outside and in their neighborhood. While gardening is usually a solitary act, there are almost always other people around in a community garden and there is always plenty in common to talk about – good food and the joy of growing it.

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