Longevity Lessons from the Blue Zones
How Did the Blue Zones Get Started?
In the early 2000s, Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow, and a team of demographers, anthropologists and researchers identified five areas around the world that had the highest concentration of centenarians and coined the term “Blue Zones” to describe these five regions. While our global life expectancy is around 72 years old, people in the Blue Zones are living healthy, happy lives to at least 100 years old! These areas have expanded to different cities and communities around the world that model the nine lessons for living long, healthy and happy lives.
What are the 9 Lessons?
After visiting the five regions--Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Loma Linda, United States--the team uncovered nine lessons, dubbed the Power 9. These nine evidence-based common denominators reflect lifestyle and food principles for longevity. Read about the 9 lessons here.
- Move naturally. The world’s centenarians used the built environment to move their bodies. They are located in parts of the world where walking to the store and having access to natural walkways are common forms of movement. Regardless of location, being able to build movement into everyday life is key, in or out of the home.
- Know your purpose. According to researchers in the Psychological Science Journal article, “Purpose in Life as a Predictor of Mortality Across Adulthood,” knowing your purpose in life has been linked to reducing mortality risk and increasing lifespan. Begin thinking about what adds meaning to your life and the lives of those in your community.
- Downshift. Think about practices that help you reduce stress. Stress leads to inflammation and age-related diseases. Are you able to take time to nap, pray, or enjoy some time alone? Find a de-stressing activity that works for you.
- Plant slant. The centenarians consumed meat in smaller portions as a topping or condiment, and consumed weekly instead of at every meal. The meals prioritize whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and nuts, such as pistachios, emphasizing "a handful a day."
- 80 percent rule. “Hara hachi bu.” The Okinawans practice the Confucian teaching, “hara hachi bu,” which is to eat till you are 80 percent full. The goal is to practice a more mindful eating experience and to learn how to listen to your body. This does not mean to eat less; it is to shift the focus of eating to a more engaging experience.
- Wine at five. Most people in the Blue Zones drink one to two glasses of wine to enjoy with friends and family as part of their downshift, except for some regions that observe religious traditions.
- Right tribe. Researchers found that behaviors, like smoking and loneliness, are contagious as are happiness and healthy behaviors. People in these areas have strong social connections and networks that support their healthy behaviors. Surround yourself with a group of friends that support the positive changes you’re aiming to achieve.
- Belong. Most centenarians belong to a faith-based community and have a strong belief system. Research shows that being part of these communities can add 4 to 14 years of life expectancy engaging in just four services a month.
- Loved ones first. Those in the Blue Zones put their families first. They do so by committing to a life partner, keeping children and aging parents close by, and spending quality time with their loved ones. These actions add additional years to their lives.
Though these Blue Zones span across the globe, these Power 9s are shared among the centenarians and their communities. As you consider these nine lessons, choose ones that speak to you most as you begin your journey to living a longer, happier and healthier life!