“Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.” ~ Doug Larson
This past May I heard Rudy Maxa speak at a professional gathering. Maxa is a renown travel journalist who has hosted many widely syndicated travel shows in the U.S. and overseas. He shared (and enlightened those present with) his knowledge of and experiences with Blue Zones.
In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic and the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people lived measurably better. In these Blue Zones they found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the U.S.
After identifying the world’s Blue Zones, teams of scientists were dispatched to each location to identify lifestyle characteristics that might explain longevity. They found that the lifestyles of all Blue Zone residents shared nine specific characteristics, called the Power of 9 ®.
I know some of you might be thinking: I don’t want to live longer. And that’s understandable. But what about living better? What if you’re wondering where to go on your next holiday/vacation? Perhaps you’re itching for something new to do and you’re curious about building a Blue Zone in your business or community. Or maybe you’re contented with your current lifestyle yet interested in learning more about ‘how do these people do it?’
The five Blue Zones are located in Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan and; Nicoya, Costa Rica.
Blue Zones has created a validated tool called Vitality Compass, an accurate life estimator. You might want to try it. It’s not one of those unscientific quizzes that abound on the Internet. It also provides recommendations to help you live longer.
Following are five (Power of 9) evidence-based common denominators among all five locations. To me they are not surprising, only to the extent that people outside Blue Zones don’t take the time to consider or weave them into their lifestyle. 🙂
- Right Tribe. The world’s longest lived-people choose – or were born into – social circles that supported healthy behaviors, Okinawans created “moais” – groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.
- Wine @ 5. People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food.
- 80% Rule. “Hara hachi bu” – the Okinawan, 2,500 year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight and gaining it. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more for the rest of the day.
- Down Shift. Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.
- Move Naturally. These people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house or yard work.