Travel far enough away from the influence of American fast food and you’ll find populations with an abundance of nonagenarians (i.e., 90-year olds). Coincidence? I think not. Instead, I submit that these pockets of longevity, so-called Blue Zones (I guess because of the abundant grey hair), exist precisely because they avoid our dysfunctional approach to food and exercise.
Blue Zones were identified by a team of researchers funded by National Geographic and AARP. To date, five geographically disperse zones have been identified (with more expeditions planned). The common building blocks for longevity include: having the right outlook, moving naturally, being part of a tribe and eating wisely. If these seem obvious, it’s because they are. And except for, “wear clean drawers in case you get hit by a bus”, it’s the same advice you likely heard from your mom.
More interesting is how the “Blue Zoners” are applying their learning closer to home. They recently conducted a Vitality Project in Albert Lea, MN, where local residents were encouraged to make small, manageable changes to their lives…kids walked to school, people planted gardens, neighbors volunteered, side salads appeared on fast food menus. The net result? Increased longevity, reduced health care costs, increased productivity, and more bliss (although work continues on modeling the relationship between reduced happy meal consumption and bliss).
Obviously, we don’t need to relocate to be “in the zone”. There are small changes we can make that will have a big impact on our quality of life…now and in the future. It starts with being more deliberate about what we eat, how we move and with who we connect. If the research is correct, the changes will help us live better, longer and we can look forward to the day when “zones” exist only where living a long, rich life is not the norm.
You can get more information on living better, longer at www.bluezones.com.