The Blue Zones: Learning from people who live the longest

From Blue Zones Facebook page

The old saying that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel is particularly true when it comes to having a healthy lifestyle that gives you the greatest opportunity to live longer. The Blue Zones, by Dan Buettner, may not have invented the wheel (he and his team studied communities where people lived a long time), but offers a compelling summary of the factors in those communities that will lead to a longer life. The Blue Zones studied of five communities where people are more likely to live to be 100 than other parts of the world and identified nine (9) . The Blue Zones identifies nine (9) habits that are common among people who live to be 100. They are:

9 Lifestyle Habits of the World’s Healthiest, Longest-Lived People

  1. Move Naturally. The world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it.
  2. Purpose. The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida”; for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
  3. Downshift. Even the people in the Blue Zones experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflamation, associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors. Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.
  4. 80% Rule. “Hara hachi bu” — the Okinawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight and gaining it.
  5. Plant-Slant. Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat — mostly pork — is eaten only five times per month. Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of a deck of cards.
  6. Wine @ 5. People in all blue zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is 1-2 glasses per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food.
  7. Belong. All but vie of the 263 centenarians we interviewed belong to some faith based community. Denomination does’t seem to matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month wil add 4-14 years of life expectancy.
  8. Loved Ones First. Successful centenarians in the blue zones put their families first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home (it lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.). They commit to a life partner (which can add up to 3 ears of life expectancy) and invest in their chilrdren with time and love (They’ll be mroe likely to care for you when the time comes).
  9. Right Tribe. The world’s longest lived people chose-or were born into-social circles that supported healthy behaviors. Okinanwans createind “moais” – groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Frimnghan Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So the social networks of long-lived people havefavorably shaped their health behaviors.
From posts on Facebook by the Blue Zones

One of my favorite habits is Plant-Slant. For years, people have recommended eating more fruits and vegetables. But describing the approach as Plant-Slant removes some of the judgment for eating meat. It doesn’t prohibit you from eating meat or impose a value judgment on eating meat, it just recommends having your diet emphasize eating plants.

In addition to these habits, the Blue Zones offers strategies to implement each of these habits. These are my favorite implementation strategies. For example, to implement Move Naturally, the strategy is inconvenience yourself. I used to try to be as efficient as possible. Now if I think of it as good thing if I need to make two trips up/downs stairs.

The Blue Zones provides terrific guidance on how to live longer. Some of the factors may not be new (people have recommended more exercise for a long time), but Dan frames it in a new way that seems more attainable.

The Blue Zones also has a Vitality Compass – a survey that asks you 33 questions and then provides you wth your current life expectancy, your healthy life expectancy, the potential life expectancy, and a list of suggestions to help you live longer.

I highly recommend the Blue Zones to help one live longer and better.


  • Nathan S. Gibson

    Nathan S. Gibson is an independent worker compliance business partner who provides expertise and creative solutions to enhance workforce flexibility and maintain compliance. He helps mitigate the risks associated with the misclassification of self-employed consultants, freelancers and independent contractors.

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