Background: Gardening benefits health in older adults, but previous studies have limited generalizability or do not adequately adjust for sociodemographic factors or physical activity (PA). Objective: We examined health outcomes, fruits and vegetables (F&V) intake, and 10-year mortality risk among gardeners and exercisers compared with nonexercisers. Design: Cross-sectional data of noninstitutionalized US adults in the 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System was collected via landline and cellular phone survey. Participants/setting: Adults 65 years and older reporting any PA (n = 146,047) were grouped as gardeners, exercisers, or nonexercisers. Main outcome measures: Outcomes included cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, mental and physical health, F&V intake, and 10-year mortality risk. Statistical analyses: Summary statistics were calculated and adjusted logistic regression models were conducted to calculate adjusted odds ratios (aORs) and 95% CIs, accounting for the complex survey design. Results: The sample included gardeners (10.2%), exercisers (60.0%), and nonexercisers (30.8%). Gardeners, compared with nonexercisers, had significantly lower odds of reporting all studied health outcomes and higher odds of consuming 5 or more F&V per day (CVD: aOR 0.60, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.68; stroke: aOR 0.55, 95% CI 0.47 to 0.64; heart attack: aOR 0.63, 95% CI 0.55 to 0.73, high cholesterol: aOR 0.86, 95% CI 0.79 to 0.93; high blood pressure: aOR 0.74, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.81; diabetes: aOR 0.51, 95% CI 0.46 to 0.56; body mass index ≥25: aOR 0.74, 95% CI 0.68 to 0.80; poor mental health status: aOR 0.50, 95% CI 0.43 to 0.59; poor physical health status: aOR 0.35, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.39; 5 or more F&V per day: aOR 1.56, 95% CI 1.40 to 1.57; high 10-year mortality risk: aOR 0.39, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.42). Male and female gardeners had significantly lower odds of reporting diabetes even when compared with exercisers. Conclusions: Among adults 65 years and older, gardening is associated with better CVD health status, including lower odds of diabetes. Future longitudinal or interventional studies are warranted to determine whether promoting gardening activities can be a CVD risk reduction strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
StateAccepted/In press - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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