Living in the Blue Zones

Globes

In 2004 a man named Dan Buethner along with National Geographic went around the world looking for places where people lived well; where people had longer lifespans and healthier bodies. They identified 5 places with the highest life expectancy. Once they identifies these places, they took in a team of scientist to find out why.

Were there characteristics that these communities shared that could be replicated in other places?

They found 9 specific traits or characteristics of centenarians who lived in these communities. They called the communities “Blue Zones” and the nine characteristics the “Power 9.”

These are the 9 traits they found:

  1. Move naturally. The healthiest communities in the world did not have fancy exercise machines. They did not have expensive gym memberships. They participated in no exercise classes. Instead they lived in communities that forced movement. They planted gardens, they walked, they did house work.
  2. They had purpose. Each community called it something different, but the idea was the same. They had a reason for getting up in the morning. Researchers found that having a sense of purpose added years to the life expectancy.
  3. Routines to ‘shed stress’ — the researchers called it “down shift”. None of the places were stress-free. But they all had ways to relieve the stress. Some communities napped, some had a happy hour, but all had something.
  4. Something called an 80% rule. Each community had the belief that you stop eating before you’re full. You stop eating when you’re at 80%. And all ate their lightest meal in the evening.
  5. They all ate a lot of greens, a lot of plants. Meat was not eaten in much in any of the communities, rather it was a diet high in plants.
  6. They belonged to something. All but 5 of the people studied in these communities were part of a faith-based community. Belonging was critical, faith was critical.
  7. They put family first. They were part of extended families, committed to one life partner, cared about the elderly. Family was critical.
  8. Something researchers called the “right tribe”. To age successfully, free of chronic disease, you either have to choose, or be born into, the right social circles – circles that support healthy choices.

So why am I writing about this? Because I find this fascinating, particularly the last three:

Belonging. Family. Tribe.

I grew up with a strong sense of community and family. There was my immediate family, but beyond that was my extended missionary family, and within that were Pakistanis that were part of my community. Back in the United States there were extended family–blood relatives that cared. Faith was equally important – faith as foundational to all we did, faith as a hallmark of our lives. Lastly I felt I was part of a tribe – a group of people who, though different, were tied together by common purpose, similar culture, and equal economic status. None of us were rich in money, many of us felt rich in family, community, and purpose. In a way, I grew up in a blue zone. 

Turns out that these things matter to our health, because health is about so much more than our physical bodies.

I no longer live in a blue zone. And it makes me wonder, can we create our own blue zones? Our own places of health for both body and soul? Since we are created for community and connection, I don’t think living in our self-created blue zones is enough. There have to be others who are a part of our lives, who become our community and ‘tribe’.

What do you think? Do you currently live in a Blue Zone as defined by the common characteristics? Do you wish you did?

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Today’s muffins are Dark Chocolate Cherry Muffins. As always Stacy has managed to come up with a creative, delicious muffin. Click here for the recipe.

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5 thoughts on “Living in the Blue Zones

  1. Thanks for this post- truly some interesting things to think about…Good question whether we can create our own blue zones. I guess certain factors we just can’t determine, like the circles we’re born into or the country. I know the feeling of long winters wearing you down…:)
    But then there are factors we can determine or change. I guess we can pick the people we surround ourselves with, sort of building our own “tribe”. We can decide the country we want to live in, about our diet, the kind of job we want to do. Found it very interesting that none of the blue zones were stress-free, cause neither will our lives ever be that way. But knowing the importance of making time for rest and family should keep us pushing in the same direction.
    Service is also a great addition to this. Don’t we think we’re most happy receiving? Maybe not. About a year ago, I made the decision to care more about people and put them first in my agenda, thoughts etc. Not always working, but I realized I am most happy spending time with them (actually giving)- makes me rich in the process. Serving others can give you purpose in life, not for the sake of serving (as in strict rules), but in a willing heart receiving in the process.

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  2. One of my friends is from a blue zone, the town of Barichara where people tend to live to their late 80s or 90s. It is considered the most beautiful town of Colombia, with its colonial architecture and slow pace of living.

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    1. Ohhhh – I want to go there! Just this short comment makes me feel like I can see it and feel it. Perhaps it’s also the long winter continuing to challenge me! The roads are all white it’s so cold!

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