Everyone, everywhere is on the same general consensus that they want to do everything that they can to live a long, full, and fulfilling life. Doctors, influencers, academics, and nutritionists speak about the importance of a healthy diet, exercising, and good sleep to ensure the highest quality of life, as well as the effects on the longevity of a healthy lifestyle.
But, why do we never hear about pursuing our passions, spending quality time with loved ones, or traveling around the world as a synonym for longevity?
The time that we put into our passion projects and the thing that we love to do directly correlates with the state of our mental health, which in turn positively affects our physical health, and can create a more fulfilling, long life.
Nutrition and Eating: How it Affects Our Longevity
Our body is a temple. It is not a contrary opinion that food is medicine and the food that we put into our bodies matter. Implementing whole, nutrient-rich foods, rather than processed, sugar-filled, and foods lacking any sort of substance is a cornerstone to health and longevity. The things that we choose to fill our bodies with are the catalysts that provide us with energy and have immense and profound effects on the overall mental and physical health of our bodies.
What does nutrition have to do with mental health, you ask?
The short answer: everything. Our minds and guts have a connection, one of them is always affecting the other. Our guts and our brains are directly linked, constantly sending signals to and from each other. For example, Harvard Health Publishing, speaks on the importance of a healthy gut to support a healthy mind and vice versa, saying, “a troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.”
This connection includes, but is not limited to consuming foods loaded with prebiotics and probiotics. We all know the feeling of eating junk food over and over again on a road trip or vacation. It does not feel good in our bodies or our minds. Therefore, choosing a balanced diet with greens, vitamins, minerals, and foods that make us feel strong, in addition to the foods that we love that may not have as much nutritional value, but add emotional wellness to our bodies, giving us a sense of comfort, celebration, and social-wellness to our lives.
Exercising: How it Affects Our Longevity
If you have ever broken a sweat, at least once, you know how good it feels to release your body’s toxins. If you have ever taken a walk outside in the fresh, crisp air, you know how good it feels to move your body and be in tune with nature. If you have ever taken a group workout class, you know the intense feeling of euphoria and endorphins that exercising alongside others provides.
It is no secret that a healthy heart and body can significantly increase longevity for people who continuously incorporate movement into their day-to-day life. Even the federal government and both sides of Congress can agree that exercise is crucial for a healthy lifestyle. For example, a study conducted by the National Institute of Health found that “physical activity reduces many major mortality risk factors including arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus type 2, dyslipidemia, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer.”
Exercising to increase longevity does not mean that you need to go to the gym and lift 50-pound dumbbells for 2 hours every day. In fact, overexercising can be just as harmful as not exercising at all. Oftentimes, a simple walk of 30-45 minutes a day is all that you need to boost your heart rate and break a light sweat. According to The New York Times, studies have discovered that “the sweet spot for activity and longevity [is] at somewhere around 7,000 to 8,000 daily steps or about 30 to 45 minutes of exercise most days.”
Get outside and get walking, folks!
Gardening: How it Affects Our Longevity
Finally, how does gardening affect our longevity? Well, gardening is pretty much the beautiful intersection between nutrition and exercise, as you are getting movement in by planting, harvesting, and growing, as well as growing plants that will eventually nourish your body.
According to studies documented in the Los Angeles Times, gardening has been proven to increase longevity through the absorption of Vitamin D and supply of fresh vegetables, a reduction in the risk for dementia, as well as a greater stress reducer than reading. While these wins may seem small, they serve a larger purpose than you may be able to imagine. For instance, according to the United States Department of Justice, “stress is the number one killer” of people in America, as it is linked to “heart attacks, asthma, high blood pressure, and ulcers”, as well as a detriment to “the body’s immunity system” which contributes to “tuberculosis and cancer.”
If a few minutes or hours spent outside nurturing plants can nurture your mind and body so well, why are we not gardening more? Instilling a few moments of mindfulness every day to care for something, like a garden, can be therapeutic and life-giving, as well as cultivate a passion and a harvest.
Let’s get to growing and know, without a doubt you are never past your prime to get a little dirty in the garden.