We’re all a little more wellness-aware these days, and that’s a good thing. Modern life makes it hard to maintain healthy habits, though many of us are learning how to do better. But, the residents of the world’s blue zones take that one step further with lifestyles that look after all aspects of our wellness. But what is a blue zone and why are they so healthy?
WHAT ARE BLUE ZONES?
In the November 2005 National Geographic cover story, The Secrets of a Long Life, Dan Buettner identified blue zones as parts of the world where people live longer than the average. These areas have a higher concentration of centenarians, suffer less from fatal diseases, and enjoy more years of good health. Researchers believe that genetics only account for 20%-30% of longevity; they think environmental factors like diet and lifestyle play a larger role.
Officially, there are five blue zones. These are:
- Sardinia (Italy)
- Loma Linda, California (USA)
- Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica)
- Okinawa (Japan)
- Icaria (Greece)
WHY SHOULD I LIVE LIKE A BLUE ZONER?
Simply – a blue zone lifestyle could help you enjoy better health and a longer life. It could bring a whole host of benefits, such as:
- Weight loss
- More energy
- Improved strength
- Better sleep
- Stronger social relationships
Here’s how to live the blue zone life and reap these benefits.
Many people in blue zones primarily eat a 95% plant-based diet. That means they eat far less seafood, meat, and dairy than the average person. Mimic this by loading up on vegetables, legumes, wholegrains, and nuts. All of these have been proven to lower the risk of heart disease, reduce blood pressure, and provide essential nutrients.
Ever heard of the 80/20 rule? In Okinawa, they call this hara hachi bu, which means they stop eating when they’re 80% full. Remember, our brains take a little time to catch up with our stomach, so following this rule means you’ll eat fewer calories and prevent weight gain and chronic disease.
Intermittent fasting has become quite the trend and in blue zones, they’ve already figured out it can be beneficial for your health. There are many ways of doing it, but regular fasting can lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and reduce your risk for other chronic diseases. Plus, it can even help you lose weight. Try the popular 16:8 method.
CUT THE ALCOHOL
We’re not telling you to give up the booze completely, but perhaps think about moderating your intake in line with official health guidelines. Blue zone inhabitants usually only consume alcohol in moderate amounts; when they do, it’s usually red wine which is packed with health-improving antioxidants from grapes.
See also: 8 Best Wellness Apps
Most of us lead pretty sedentary lifestyles, apart from bursts of activity such as a yoga class or gym session. In blue zones, though, people exercise, but almost by accident with daily activities like walking, gardening, cooking, and other daily chores. Try to incorporate at least 75 minutes of intense activity or 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. Or, get a dog so you’ll have to go on regular walks.
Our bodies usually need around eight hours of sleep each night to function at their best. In blue zones, many residents are in tune with their circadian rhythms, rising with the sun and sleeping through the night. They get the recommended amount of sleep – at the right time – and feel fresh and active throughout the day.
FIND YOUR PURPOSE
It’s all too easy to coast through life, ticking off “achievements” and doing what we think we should. Blue zone dwellers believe that their lives have a purpose. In Okinawa, they call it ikigai; in Nicoya, it’s known as a plan de vida, or life plan. Having this is associated with better mental wellbeing. Spend some time in introspection, working out what you want out of life, then go out and live your life with purpose. You’ll probably find that you feel far more fulfilled.
We all get a little stressed, but those in blue zones know it’s important to have daily stress-relieving rituals. Pray, meditate, take a nap, or go to happy hour. Whatever helps you relax, do it.
Strong family connections are common amongst blue zoners. You can mimic this by maintaining strong social ties with close friends as well as your family. Translation: plan more meetups.
Consider this permission to have several coffees a day! Studies have shown that coffee can lower your risk of mortality, and black coffee is often consumed in blue zones. The catch? You’ll need to cut out the cream and sugar.
See also: 5 Reasons Why Coffee is Good for You
LIVE BETTER AND LONGER
The blue zone lifestyle isn’t difficult to achieve. Usually, you’ll just need to make some minor adjustments to your current habits. But, these changes can be hugely beneficial to your health and wellbeing – and could increase your lifespan.