You may have heard of the Blue Zones before, or come across the term on our site, but what exactly do we mean by Blue Zones?
The average global life expectancy is 71.4 years. This means that there are some parts of the world with much shorter average life expectancy, while others enjoy far greater longevity. Author and explorer Dan Buettner identified five places in particular which fell into the latter category. These five places are known as the Blue Zones, and they are home to some of the oldest, and healthiest people on the planet.
These populations are from:
- Okinawa, Japan
- The Ogliastra region of Sardinia
- Ikaria, Greece
- Nicoya, Costa Rica
- Loma Linda, California
A marvel within these populations is that disease and mortality are not seen as normal, for them the main cause of death is simply ‘old age’. They grow old in a much better state and tend to experience much lower rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s and dementia compared to the U.S.
What have they been doing differently?
Researchers have observed that there are several mutual behavioural and lifestyle traits shared by those living in the Blue Zones. These commonalities exist despite coming from totally different areas of the world, different races, nationalities, and religions. Reports showed that:
“some lifestyle characteristics, like family coherence, avoidance of smoking, plant-based diet, moderate and daily physical activity, social engagement, where people of all ages are socially active and integrated into the community, are common in all people enrolled in the surveys.”
Researchers have pinpointed 9 commonalities among the populations:
1. They have a strong sense of purpose. They wake up excited for every day.
2. They eat a predominantly plant-based diet. Most of their calories come from grains, nuts, legumes, fruits & vegetables. Typically, 95% of their meals do not consist of any meat. They consume very little, if any, processed foods.
3. They drink 1-2 glasses of alcohol a day, mainly red wine. There is no binge drinking, they savour their meals and enjoy a glass of wine as an accompaniment.
4. They have strong bonds with family and friends. They look after their families, commit to their loved ones, and enjoy time with their friends.
5. They fast, and they never finish a meal feeling completely full. They also tend to eat their larger meals to start the day and have smaller meals at the end of the day.
6. They exercise at a low intensity over long periods of time. They do not spend all day sitting down, nor do they lift heavy weights. Rather they continuously move throughout the day.
7. They sleep well.
8. For the most part they are part of a spiritual or faith-based community which encourages encouraging thoughts and behaviour.
9. They naturally deal well with stress. Chronic stress is known to cause a myriad of problems and to be a major contributing factor for the development of many manage chronic illnesses.