4 Habits to Adopt for a Longer Healthier Life inspired by the Blue Zones

“Blue Zones” are regions that have more centenarians and fewer cases of chronic disease than anywhere else in the world, a pattern that experts attribute to occupants’ healthy diet and lifestyle habits. There’s now 6 Blue Zones identified but you don’t have to move to them to benefit from the secrets uncovered. I’ve long been intrigued by the health benefits of living in Blue Zones and the secrets behind the quality of the inhabitant’s longevity.

What are they doing that I’m not doing? What can I change?

Here are 4 Habits you should consider to support healthy aging inspired by the blue zones.

  1. Eat Healthy Fats
  2. Move everyday
  3. Prioritize sleep
  4. Make time for community
Let’s look at each one more closely.

 

Eat healthy fats

One commonality between people living in blue zones worldwide is the amount of healthy fats in their diets. In Okinawa, Japan, they eat fatty fish such as salmon, while people consume plenty of local olive oil in the Mediterranean. One of the reasons they’re associated with longevity is their ability to reduce inflammation, which is at the root of chronic health conditions like heart disease, strokes, depression, and anxiety.

Move Everyday

Instead of setting yourself ambitious, potentially unachievable fitness goals, take your cues from the blue zones and build some movement into your daily routine. It doesn’t necessarily have to be “exercise”. In a study published by Nature Medicine, short “bursts” of activity (like running up the stairs) that were measured using wearable tech devices were found to be beneficial in staving off ill health. The results revealed that those who did short but intense bouts of movement reduced their heart disease mortality risk by 50 percent and their risk of death from cancer by around 40 percent, compared with those who did no vigorous activity. Although it might not feel like you’re doing much, this kind of movement is enough to stress the cardiovascular system, increasing oxygen uptake and preventing cardiac arteries from clogging.

Daily movement of some kind is also important for healthy lymph flow, which is essential for keeping the immune system in shape. Start by making small incremental changes every day. Whether it’s factoring in more stairs to climb, adding counter push-ups while waiting for your coffee to brew, or including a few gentle stretches to your pre-bedtime routine, aim to add more movement a little each day. Going for a 10-minute walk after dinner will help to improve your digestion and lower your stress levels before you
head to bed.

 

Want some simple guidelines for adding movement to your day? The BoneSmart Bursts™ are 5-10 minute movement snacks created by a PT with variety, creativity, and bone safety in mind.

 

 

Prioritize your sleep

People understand the importance of a great night’s sleep in blue zones.  Good quality sleep re-energizes brain cells, repairs skin, and strengthens every major system in the body, including the immune, respiratory, endocrine, and central nervous systems. Naps are also a priority in blue zones. Experts agree that the right kind of nap (around 20 minutes is optimum and never after 3 pm), can not only restore a sleep deficit but also improve concentration, mood and energy. As for healthy nighttime habits, sticking to a regular sleep schedule of set times and getting between seven and nine hours a night all contribute to better overall health.

Connection

Blue zone inhabitants all share a common belief in the importance of community and connection. Humans are naturally sociable creatures, so it’s no surprise that social connection is key to a long and healthy life. A recent study found that socially isolated people had a 26 percent higher risk of all-cause death, while prolonged loneliness also resulted in an elevated risk of 14 percent. Being around other people is also key to better brain health. When we interact with others, blood circulates to different parts of the brain to help us listen and formulate responses. Constantly using the brain in this way increases our neuroplasticity, connections between brain cells, and the neural circuits used.

Wrapping it up

In closing, try to include more healthy fats, move more, honor your sleep, and connect with others to promote healthy aging.