Older adults who spend time gardening are more likely to eat healthier foods, and report better quality of life and higher energy levels than other seniors who don’t garden, according to new research.

Poor diet and lack of exercise are major contributors to increased mortality and morbidity among older adults, according to researchers from Texas A&M and Texas State University. In a survey of nearly 300 adults age 50 and over, respondents who spent time gardening were more likely to be energetic, healthy and optimistic about the future. Of those who garden, 84% said they had made plans for things they will be doing in one month or one year, while only 68% of non-gardeners had made similar plans. When asked whether they agree or disagree with the statement “I feel old and tired,” 70.9% of gardeners disagreed, while only 54.3% of non-gardeners disagreed.

Older adults who garden also reported significantly better eating habits, consuming more fruits and vegetables than those who did not, according to researchers. These findings indicate that “gardening intervention programs late in life would be an effective method of boosting vegetable and fruit consumption in older adults,” researchers say. Their study appears in the most recent edition of the journal HortTechnology.