In 2007 researcher and explorer Dan Buettner journeyed to Costa Rica with a team of scientists to study communities where people have some of the longest lifespans in the world. This area, and others like it, became known as Blue Zones, places where people naturally live long, healthy lives without medications, surgeries, or anti-aging gimmicks.
Based on his discoveries, Buettner created the Blue Zones Project®, and today works with communities in the United States to help them apply the basic life principles of Blue Zones to improve well-being.
In 2011 Iowa joined the Blue Zones Project with the goal of becoming the healthiest state in the nation by 2016. Backed by the governor, health insurance companies, and community leaders, the state is implementing key environmental and health policies with the knowledge that when healthy choices are easy for people to make, it can increase everyone’s health and longevity.
Among other successes, Algona, Iowa, has passed funding for new sidewalks and Algona Municipal Utilities employees have seen a 29 percent increase in healthy cholesterol levels.
“Having the framework of the Blue Zones Project has helped us move forward with plans for the Algona community at a faster pace and with greater assurance that community projects would lead our citizens to healthier choices,” said Algona Mayor Lynn Kueck.
Hawaii, parts of California, Oregon, Texas, and more have adopted the the Blue Zones Project, too.
“The longest-lived people don’t run marathons or pump iron," said Buettner at an event at Kapiolani Community College in Hawaii. “They live in environments that naturally promote physical movement, where it is easy to walk to the store, to their friends’ houses or their place of worship. Their friends are healthy-minded and supportive. Plant-based food is the cheapest and most edible food, and time-honored recipes are followed to make vegetables taste good.”
Blue Zones at Home
Even if you don’t live in a place with a Blue Zones initiative, you can still take Blue Zone principles—called the Power 9®—and apply them to your life.
The first Blue Zone Power 9 is to move naturally. Our great grandparents burned twice as many calories as we do today by just doing the tasks in their everyday lives. Instead of hiring someone to clean your house or mow your lawn, consider doing those chores yourself to help you keep in shape and feel good.
Two hours of yard work or house cleaning each week can burn about 1,150 calories, according to research. If you keep up that pace for the year, you could lose up to 17 pounds without worrying a bit about your diet.
If chores aren’t your thing, even something like rearranging the living room or helping a friend move furniture can burn up to 500 calories.
Community and family support are also key to a Blue Zone lifestyle. Try hosting more dinners or potlucks at your house, join a monthly book club, or find a faith community. Even taking more walks with friends or finding ways to be more social at work can help boost your longevity.
© 2015 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies