According to the National Institutes of Health, Americans suffer from more health problems than nearly all other industrialized countries. Diseases and health problems that span obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and other types of disabilities currently affect millions of people living in the United States. As a result, Americans are suffering mortality at earlier ages and parents are starting to outlive their children.
However, there are regions in other parts of the world known as Blue Zones, in which people are able to live significantly longer than those living in other parts of the world, including those that are industrialized. Most people who live in Blue Zones live well into their late 90s and 100s, while remaining both physically and mentally active.
The 5 regions that make up the Blue Zones are:
- Barbagia region of Sardinia, Italy
- Ikaria, Greece
- Okinawa, Japan
- Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica
- Seventh Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California
Dan Buettner of National Geographic has worked with experts who have researched why Blue Zone inhabitants are able to live longer, fuller lives. They learned that the major secret to living longer is to create and live in a healthy, thriving environment. Although many believe that genes are responsible for a person’s lifespan, the truth is that 75% of a person’s lifespan is influenced by the environment they create for themselves.
The following 9 healthy lifestyle habits — also known as the Power9 — can help you take steps toward living a longer, fuller life.
1. Move naturally
Blue Zone inhabitants incorporate natural exercise into their everyday lives, such as taking long walks, gardening, and performing routine housework. Most people who reside in Blue Zones live in environments in which exercise is just a normal part of daily life. Start by making small changes to your daily routine, such as walking instead of driving to a nearby shop and taking stairs instead of the elevator.
2. Have a purpose
Having a sense of purpose and a reason to wake up in the morning can increase your life expectancy by as much as 7 years. On a daily basis, spend time engaging in your favorite hobby, volunteer, or find something else to put your energy into so you have something to look forward to when you wake up.
People who live in the Blue Zones experience stress just like anyone else, but take steps to effectively reduce their stress such as performing yoga, praying, and napping. Take time out of your day to do something that relaxes you and relieves stress, such as sitting outside in the sun or reading a few chapters in a good book.
4. Practice the 80% rule
Blue Zone inhabitants generally eat small meals and stop eating when they are about 80% full. When you eat, be mindful of the types of foods you are eating, and eat modest portion sizes. Healthy eating habits will naturally lead to improved and lasting health.
5. Add more plants to your diet
Those who reside in the Blue Zones eat a plant-based diet high in beans and vegetables, and eat meat no more than 5 times per month. Limit your intake of sugar, meat, and processed foods, and add more plant-based foods to each meal.
6. Drink wine in moderation
Red wine contains numerous antioxidants that can improve your health by lowering cholesterol and reducing inflammation. Plus, science has proven that moderate drinkers far outlive non-drinkers. Blue Zone residents generally consume moderate amounts of alcohol daily. Drink between 1 and 2 glasses of red wine per day to ensure lasting health.
7. Surround yourself with quality friends and family
Spending time with a group of quality friends and family on a regular basis can increase a person’s lifespan by several years. Blue Zone inhabitants surround themselves with like-minded healthy, quality people and even attend faith-based services regularly. Step away from impersonal, online relationships and connect with people in person who share your same interests and lifestyle habits.
8. Put loved ones first
People who live in Blue Zones make friends and family a top priority, and are known to spend hours a day engaging in quality activities with them. Reserve more time in your day for those who matter most to you, and participate in activities together that strengthen body and mind.
9. Join the right tribe
People who live the longest surround themselves with people who have similar beliefs and values. Research has shown that certain negative behaviors such as smoking and overeating can be contagious, so it’s important to surround yourself with people who also practice healthy living habits. Make new friends at your gym or local market who lead lifestyles similar to your own.
To enrich the quality of your life and live longer, incorporate some or all of the Power9 strategies into your own lifestyle. As a result, you will continue to enjoy good health and the beauty of life much longer than your peers, who may refuse or fail to make healthy lifestyle changes that can prolong their lives.