Initially circled with blue ink on a big world map, the Blue Zones are areas around the world where people live vibrantly into old age.
Beginning in November, 2005, Dan Buettner began writing extensively about these interesting areas and documenting his findings based on more than a decade of travel.
While each area has their own traditions and specific foods, each have created an environment where healthy living is sort of “automatic.” With a team of researchers, Dan found nine commonalities among the scattered five Blue Zones.
While the specifics are not what is important, we can learn from the general lifestyle habits of these areas. Distilling the habits that help them live longer, happier, and healthier lives, Blue Zone experts have termed these strategies “The Power Nine”:
“The Power Nine”:
Move Naturally: While they don’t frequent gyms or have specific workout routines, the world’s longest living people have environments that nudge them constantly into moving. They walk almost everywhere!
Purpose: They all have a reason to wake up in the morning. Having a sense of purpose adds good years to your life. We have all seen this among our loved ones! Maintaining a sense of purpose has even been formally researched with 4,486 people and can affect grip strength and walking speed among people over age 50.
Downshift: Routines to shed stress are another commonality among the long-lived people of the Blue Zones. Different strategies include prayer, taking a nap, enjoying a happy hour with friends, and taking time each day to remember their ancestors.
80 Percent Rule: Hara Hachi Bu is a fun phrase used in Japan’s Okinawan Blue Zone. It is a tactic to remind themselves to stop eating before they are stuffed — when their stomachs are just 80 percent full. This takes practice! By slowing down, you not only give your brain time to realize that you are full, but you have better digestion and more enjoyment of your food.
Plant Slant: Plant foods are the cornerstone of the meals of most people who live well for a long time. Beans, including black, fava, soy, and lentil are enjoyed with relatively small amounts of meat. Meat is considered a condiment or for special occasions. The Seventh-day Adventists are typically vegetarian.
Wine at 5:00: Al the Blue Zone people, including some Adventists) moderately drink alcohol — one or two glasses a day with food and/or friends. Moderate drinkers tend to outlive nondrinkers, and the key is moderation. Here is a nice article from Harvard.
Right Tribe: Social connectedness is a key to health and vitality. I’ve talked so much about this here as well as in Nourish Life, my Bible study on health. A robust circle of community can support healthy behaviors. The Blue Zones put a strong emphasis on connecting with friends and neighbors.
Community: Attending a faith-based service four times a month adds 4 to 14 years of life expectancy, according to Blue Zone researchers. They cite that the denomination does not seem to matter. Church is another area where people find purpose for living.
Loved Ones First: Centenarians in the Blue Zones value their families and put them first. They invest time and love with both the younger and elder in their families. Having a spouse also adds about three years to healthy life expectancy.
START SOMEWHERE today living more intentionally to increase the number of good years on this earth to enjoy your friends and family. The Blue Zone’s Power Nine are interesting to consider. You can do it. I will help you.