Anyone who has tried to attain a healthier lifestyle knows which diet and exercise plan to find or which experts believe is complicated. There have been plenty of studies about what food is healthy for us, helping us with longevity, and many other subjects.
The Blue Zone studies are some of the most interesting and appear to have proven results.
What Are the Blue Zones?
The term “blue zone” was used by Dan Buettner during his studies of regions of the world with the longest life expectancies. He wrote the book, titled The Blue Zones, describing five areas where people live longest and why.
These Blue Zones are:
- Icaria, Greece: Icaria is an Aegean island in Greece where people live roughly eight years longer than the average American, thanks to their Mediterranean diet. Heart health is better for people on this island, and there are almost no cases of dementia.
- The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, USA: The Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda are strict vegetarians with a close, deeply religious community.
- Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: The Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica has a diet rich in beans and corn tortillas. A strong sense of health and community also helps the people in this region live longer.
- Ogliastra, Italy: Ogliastra is a region in Sardinia which claims to have the most male centenarians. This region has changed very little in its diet and customs in the past 2,000 years. The isolation of the area, time with friends, and red wine are secrets of this blue zone’s longevity.
- Okinawa, Japan: Okinawa can boast that the women on the island have the longest lifespan on earth. The diet there is primarily soy-based, and the people have less cancer and heart disease than in the United States.
5 Things We Can Learn from the Blue Zones Study
Certain things are unique to each Blue Zone, but others are common in all of them. Balanced diets without processed foods, exercise incorporated into daily life, a strong sense of community, and minimal stress are common threads in these locations.
1. Have a Healthy Diet
All Blue Zones have diets with no processed food and are rich in vegetables, whole grains, and fruit. Most of the regions also see the importance of moderation.
For example, in some of the regions, the last meal of the day is the smallest. While in Okinawa, many residents abide by the 80% rule, meaning you eat until you’re 80% full. Eating slowly reduces hunger and makes you feel full longer, preventing you from eating too many calories.
2. Alcohol in Moderation
Another common link between the Blue Zones is moderate alcohol consumption, such as drinking red wine in Italy or Greece. Studies show one or two drinks per day can help prevent heart disease and help you live longer.
3. Naturally Incorporate Exercise
In his book, Buettner talks about how the Blue Zone residents incorporate exercise into their daily routines. For example, walking is a large part of the lifestyle in these areas. Some others will choose gardening or rely on their occupations like farming to keep them healthy.
One study about the healthy men in the Sardinian Blue Zone discovered that farming, raising animals, and walks from the steep mountains they lived on had a positive effect on their health.
4. Reduce Stress
Stress has an impact on us, and it can negatively affect our longevity. Something that residents of the Blue Zones have in common is that they will find time in their day to take a rest and relax. Some by sleeping, others by enjoying happy hour with friends or, in the case of those in Loma Linda, practice their faith.
5. Friends, Family, and Community First
Lastly, an important lesson to learn from the Blue Zone residents is the emphasis on their community and loved ones. Not only is it psychologically beneficial to have a support system, but if your community engages in healthy habits, it helps keep you healthy too.
By taking a few pages out of the Blue Zone Study, we can improve our quality of life and our longevity. These five factors play a crucial role in living a long and healthy life.