Longevity and the Blue Zone

You may have heard the term "Blue Zone" before, it was a buzz word in 2008 when author Dan Buettner published his book "The Blue Zones" and recently gained some traction in early 2015 due to the popularity of his follow up book "The Blue Zones Solution" . This isn't a plug for the book, but rather a jumping off point for a reevaluation of how we look at health in general. Blue Zones are small areas of the planet, inhabited by lucky groups of people who live exceptionally long, healthy lives. Places like Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), and Loma Linda (California) are home to populations that are more than twice as likely as the rest of us to make it to age 90. So what's the secret?

In America we have a tendency to separate a healthy lifestyle from our day-to-day activities. Those among us who are the most health-conscious take time out of our busy days to focus on wellbeing; we go to the gym, do yoga, read a book, meditate, make a point to nurture our relationships, or actively seek out healthier food options. In Blue Zones, they don't do any of that, a healthy lifestyle is just that, a lifestyle. Acts of wellness are so seamlessly incorporated into their daily lives that they make no extra effort to be healthier, they just are. Physical activity takes the shape of walking or gardening, a sense of purpose comes from civic engagement or being actively part of their families (grandparents often take care of small children or help around the house), low stress levels from a slower pace of life, and a vegetation heavy diet from local sources. 

These places are all very different in many ways, they have varying diets, different social structures and socioeconomic states, different genetics and faiths, but they do have some things in common, which Buettner argues are the key to a long, healthy life. I love the holistic approach to wellness that the Blue Zones suggest, it's more than exercise or a good diet, it's more than meditation and making time for yourself, it's an attempt to live a life that enables you to be healthier without actively trying to do so, and at the end of the day I think that's the most sustainable solution.  

For more information on Blue Zones check out this great article in Scientific American, this one from NPR, or this from The New York Times Magazine. 

What do you think about Blue Zones? Do you want to know more? Send me a message or comment below, I love hearing from you!