The Real Ways to Live a Long and Healthy Life
There are 5 places around the world that have some of the longest life expectancies. Think living to 100. Not only are they living longer than average, they're living happier too. So uhhh, what's their secret?
Well, I can tell you they don't dread the gym attending butts and guts boot camps, they don't eat rice cakes and 100-calorie packs, and they don't avoid coffee or alcohol.
These 5 areas around the world are called Blue Zones, and they have been thoroughly researched by medical professionals, anthropologists, epidemiologists, and other researchers to come up with evidence-based reasons why these people are living so long.
They came up with 9 (I combined a couple under community).
Oh and here are the areas:
- A region of Sardinia
- Ikaria, Greece
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica
- Loma Linda, California
- Okinawa, Japan
They Move Naturally
No spin classes. No cross fit. No marathons. No intentional exercise at all actually.
Blue zoner's find themselves doing things that keep them moving gently throughout the day. They walk or bike instead of drive, they garden (which also gives them fresh food in return), they knead their bread, and they do things around the house without the help of huge appliances.
For us, gardening might not be realistic, but walking more often instead of slaving away at the gym can be. And sometimes getting an intense or long workout is what your body wants, but to be healthy and happy doesn't mean you have to do that every day.
They've got a Tribe
Family: let me just blanket statement the crap out of this, but Americans forget about old people. We respect them, but only when it's convenient for us or when they're around.
In these Blue Zones, family is a huge integral part of their life. The elderly are kept close or they literally live in the home, they commit to a lifelong partner, and they invest time and love in their children.
Higher power: the research didn't show a specific religion, but those attending faith based meetings once a week added weeks to their lives. Technically, they all showed an improved lifespan with a belief in a higher power, whatever that may be for them. It can range from being a part of a community, religion, sports team, group, etc.
Inner Circle: having a group of friends that they can go to for help, can have fun with, and who are there for them was a common thread among these Blue Zones. The Okinawans actually have a name for these small groups- "moais."
They Live Their "Why"
The research showed that knowing your purpose and having a reason to wake up in the morning can possibly contribute to 7 extra years of life.
2 of the Blue Zones have terms for this purpose in life (yeah it's that important). I like this one because we tend to hear about how eliminating food groups or forcing yourself go to the gym "can add years to your life," but they take a mental health approach to increasing well-being.
Oh I'm sorry, are you from America and unfamiliar with this word? It means to carve out time in your schedule for you time. To be silent. To be grateful. To reflect. To simply be.
No phones, laptops, to do lists, or calendars needed.
The thing is, people in Blue Zones aren't immune to stress. I think we'd all be moving there if they were. They just have practices to help deal with this stress directly.
For example, Okinawans take a couple moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians nap, and Sardinians do happy hour. Heyoo I like the way they think.
They Practice Gentle Nutrition
They didn't specifically use the term gentle nutrition, but it seemed the most fitting to me. They don't restrict anything, or try to trick themselves with other diet-y foods. They simply eat until they're about 80% full and give themselves time to feel their fullness.
I mean, you know I'm a fan of intuitive eating, and that's pretty much the basis. Eating what you want, but being mindful about how and why you eat.
Some follow a more Mediterranean theme, but many use the foods natural to their culture and agriculture.
I just really love this whole study because in America, we pay over 100 billion dollars on diets, nutritional supplements, and gym memberships. How well is that working out for us?
While nourishing foods and activity are very important, as seen in these Blue Zones, I don't think we're taking the best approach here. Instead of forcing ourselves to do all these things, I think we could choose foods we enjoy eating that are also nourishing to our bodies. We can find gentle movement that we enjoy and don't even realize we're doing. We can incorporate ways to de stress and learn how to hit pause.
The most important takeaway is the importance of relationships and a sense of belonging to health. While we join gyms and buy diet foods, we forget about finding time to sit and enjoy the company of the people we love.
I hope you enjoyed this and can apply something to your own life! I'm a nerd and love when more subjective topics like ~how to live a longer and happier life~ is backed by research.