Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Blue Zones: How much can you do?

The "blue zones" are parts of the world where people commonly live past age 100. They are called that because the researcher who originally studied these zones, used blue ink to circle them on his map. So much for mystery.

According to Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones, there are nine main strategies for living longer. Details can be found on the Blue Zones website, but here's my summary:

1. Don’t exercise like an American, pounding ourselves against the pavement and pushing ourselves to the limit. Incorporate natural movement into every single day: taking the stairs, doing things by hand, parking far from your destination and walking, walking, walking.

2. Know the purpose of your life or “why I wake up in the morning.” Know your values, gifts, talents, what you love, etc.

3. Take time every day to let go of stress. Maybe pray, take a nap, meditate or get together with friends at the same time every day (but I guess, don’t pound yourself into the pavement releasing stress with a 10-mile run).

4. Follow the Japanese approach of hara hachi bu: eat until you are 80% full, then stop. (Or eat until you are no longer feeling actual hunger, then stop. Can you imagine Americans eating like this?)

5. Eat mostly plant-based foods and limit meat to a couple of meals a week.

6. Drink one (for women) or two (for men) glasses of alcohol a day, preferably red wine.

7. Belong to a religious or spiritual community.

8. Put family first.

9. Make others, who practice the most healthful habits, your closest friends.


The first five habits sound great. I’m right there on the diet, exercise and stress-relieving practices. Unfortunately, I don’t drink at all and am very disappointed to learn that moderate drinkers (not more than one or two a day) are healthier than non-drinkers. Maybe it’s time to make “start drinking” my new year’s resolution (again).

Even harder for me are habits seven and eight, and as for nine: I live in the United States. Where am I going to find even one person who lives anywhere close to this?

How about you? Which of these would be the easiest for you? And before you say “drinking” remember that you have to limit yourself to one (for women) and two (for men) drinks a day and no saving them up for the weekends.

Which of these would be the hardest for you? I’m guessing that many who read this blog will find the first five harder than the last four. For me, it’s reversed.


Sandii said...

i can do 1, 2 is a given for me, 3 yep, 4, i'm getting there!!, 5 i'm never gonna pull off, 6 i could do, 7 my family unit is quite spiritual, 8, mostly always, 9, that will be hard because most people like this drive me nuts because i feel it's disgenuine and they only do it so they can say they do it... if you get what i mean??

good post Reg!

Regina said...

Sandii - yes, there are holier-than-thou people who run these lists just to show that we have better health habits than others, but I try not to do that too often (is it working?).

You are way ahead of me. I mostly fixate on food and exercise. This family and religion stuff feels beyond me. Buettner mentions spending time with your children every day, which I obviously can't do, but I don't even have much contact with any family members, all of whom I live far from. I can put my family-of-choice first: my husband and my friends.

You can go to the Blue Zones website and take a 33-question test and it will try to predict how old your body truly is based on your habits, what your long life potential is and how you can extend it.

Their advice for me was to add alcohol, yogurt and grains to my diet, lose the anger/stress and start believing in God. I'll never make it past 50 (it's a wonder I'm still alive).

Sandii said...

i just did it, answered honestly and thankfully my recent lifestyle changes made that a good thing!!!

it suggested i get more sleep, more alcohol, here fishy fishy, and move naturally...

expected life expectancy 90.4 and my biological age is 34...

Regina said...

Sandii - congratulations. I don't know how old you really are, but 34 sounds like a great age to me.

Cat said...

Interesting... In the happiness thing, I scored a D-, but in the health thing I'm right on target for my age and the quiz is pretty happy with how I eat and move. My life expectancy is drastically foreshortened, but that's expected given the number of chronic conditions I've already got and my family's history of cancer. Very cool!