What can you do to support your health as you age?
We are all aging; it’s inevitable. Our bodies are breaking down with every moment that passes, so what are the secrets of the oldest living humans in the world? They don’t own expensive memberships to gyms or aren’t influencers, marathoners, or Ironman super-athletes. They have not simplified their lives with gadgets, apps, or food services that streamline time and efficiency. These centurions live in environments where they walk to pick up groceries when they aren’t harvesting their own. They take stairs, tend to their gardens, and socialize daily with friends, family, and community. They have purpose and actionable skills that give them and the lives of others meaning. These physical and emotional routines eliminate stress and keep these populations robust and meaningful, living way beyond the average life expectancy we typically see. These inhabitants of the “dubbed” Blue Zones are five worldwide regions from the mountains of Greece to the suburbs east of Los Angeles, where longevity and quality of life have been studied, chronicled, and broadcasted via documentaries. The criteria of a “blue zone” encompass high concentrations of centenarians, low rates of middle-age mortality, chronic disease, and dementia. The cornerstone of their many years on earth is embedded in the nine specific characteristics called thePower 9.
Natural movement comes effortlessly by walking more to meet up with a friend, the store, or even taking the stairs. Walk your dog, move about the house, plant a garden. If you look at daily movement as an inconvenience, think about how inconvenient it may be in your future if you must rely on someone else for tasks, errands, and your social calendar.
Purpose is linked to health and longevity. Start small if awareness of your purpose needs to be more precise. Expressing values, passions, gifts, and talents activates meaning and actionable skills into operation.
Stress management and strategies to overcome the pitfalls of chronic inflammation come with more mindfulness of stress triggers. New routines that alleviate stress benefit both physically and mentally. Finding ways to naturally lower and move away from the prolonged stress response takes time, practice, and patience.
Nutrition is vital, and crowding out the risks associated with the standard American diet starts with a new mindset. In addition, inhabitants of the Blue Zones adopt an 80% rule at mealtime. They do this by ceasing mealtime when their stomach is 80% full. This takes practice, but the system can be finetuned by stopping when you are no longer hungry and not overly full. Blue Zone inhabitants also close the kitchen down in the early evening. They eat a wide array of fresh seasonal whole-food plants in abundance and are quickly satiated with clean diets rich in nutrients.
Plant-focused nutrients are a way of life for these civilizations, living vibrantly, disease-free, sharp, and full of clarity well into their 80s, 90s, and past the 100-year mark. Animal protein is considered a condiment, and only small amounts, if any, are eaten on rare occasions. Moderate alcohol consumption has also been associated with a longer lifespan.
Friendship comes with benefits, as sharing your day with others has proved to be a tangible asset for those living in the Blue Zones. Daily social connections with friends and family have proven to be a superior trait of people living enriched, longer lives. So, turn off that computer, leave work at a reasonable time, and hone in on connecting more with those that bring you joy. If friends and family are not nearby, seek social groups that align with your values. The internet, your place of worship, or a library are excellent resources for providing meetups and social situations.
Your “tribe” or inner circle is a positive affirmation of supportive and active footing contributing to healthy behaviors. In the Blue Zones, friendships are fundamental to wellness as the reinforcement of quality rapport is contagious and positively affects the mind. In addition, these circles add years to your life expectancy.
Belonging and attending faith-based services. If you aren’t sure where to start, try asking a friend or neighbor and searching online for services that align with your core values.
Loved ones first. Keeping aging parents and grandparents close by has been shown to not only raise life expectancy but having loved ones in or close to home also lower disease and mortality rates of children in the house.
If we apply these principles to our daily lives, we could all reshape the environment around us and appreciate and extend the quality of life as we know it.