9 lessons on health and longevity from the world’s Blue Zones

Longevity Blue Zones is an anthropological concept that describes the characteristics and environments of the world’s healthiest and longest-lived people. The concept grew out of demographic research done by Italian physician Gianni Pes and Belgian demographer Michel Poulain, first published in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology. The two researchers identified a cluster of villages in Sardinia where an amazing proportion of men reached the age of 100.

In research funded by National Geographic, Poulain and journalist Dan Buettner then identified four other places in the world where people live the longest and are the healthiest: Okinawa, Japan; Costa Rica’s Nicoya peninsula; Ikaria island in Greece; and Loma Linda, California. They found that people in all these Blue Zone areas shared nine specific lifestyle traits that contributed to their good health and longevity

You don’t have to live in a village or any of those places to apply some of these lifestyle habits and reap their rich benefits in your life:

1) Move naturally. People in blue zones build physical activity into their daily lives naturally by walking, gardening and doing physical tasks throughout the day.

2) Live with purpose. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need and provides a sense of purpose that can improve your health and happiness.

3) Relax. Stress is part of life. People who live to 100, however, build stress-relieving rituals into their daily routines.

4) Apply the 80% rule. Don’t overindulge in food. Stop eating when your stomach is 80% full. To cut 20% of your calories, eat from a smaller plate.

5) Put plants first in your diet. Sardinians enjoy a variation of the Mediterranean Diet, which includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, goat’s milk, and olive oils. Meat is consumed on special occasions.

6) Drink water, sip wine. Long-lived people drink plenty of water and enjoy a glass of wine with a light dinner.

7) Nurture your spirit. Most centenarians that researchers talked to belonged to a faith-based community. Practicing meditation or yoga is another way to shut down mind chatter and get in touch with your spiritual side.

8) Lean on loved ones. Close family ties across generations leads to children, grandchildren and extended family honouring and supporting older adults throughout their lives.

9) Build strong social networks. Keep old friends and make new ones. Participating regularly in social activities protects against the harmful physical and emotional consequences of social isolation.