Is There a Fountain of Youth? 9 Healthy Habits of Blue Zone Populations

You might think that your longevity is all based on genes, but the reality is that many researchers believe only 5% of your longevity is dictated by your genes or up to 20% at the most. The other 80% to 95% is determined by your lifestyle choices. Areas on the planet where people have extended longevity, living to be over 100 years of age, are referred to as Blue Zones.  

The healthy lifestyle choices of Blue Zone populations all appear to share 9 specific characteristics (called the Power 9): 

1. Natural Movement 

Blue Zone populations live in areas where natural movement is encouraged – and may even be required! Many of the people living there walk long distances through the course of the day. They participate in projects that require them to be active and use their muscles to accomplish tasks, such as gardening

2. A Vital Life Purpose 

The Blue Zone people all possess a clear sense of purpose in life, making them feel needed and an essential part of the community. Each citizen wakes up in the morning with a specific purpose of work, whether it be gathering food, caring for animals, or teaching children. The practice of finding a meaningful purpose in daily life can help alleviate work-related stressors and make work truly enjoyable.  

3. Blue Zone Stress Management 

Residents of Blue Zones also enjoy healthy stress management practices. While performing necessary daily tasks, they have a sense of meaning to their life. This acts to naturally help alleviate stress. If stressed, they also take care to work off their stress in a healthy manner. Practices such as yoga, meditation, or speaking with a trusted community leader can help them to manage occasional stress.  

4. No Overeating 

These populations have a golden rule – stop eating when you are 80% full. This rule ensures that you do not overeat, helping to keep your waistline trim and your digestive system functioning properly. Additionally, it may take time during a meal for your brain to register that your stomach is full, so if you have eaten too quickly, you may have already eaten too much! 

5. Whole Food, Plant-Based Diets 

Blue Zone populations also typically focus on eating whole-food, plant-based cuisine, including nuts, seeds, legumes, and plenty of fruits and vegetables, including small amounts of fermented foods such as wine, and occasionally small amounts of animal proteins (such as fish). Their diets are similar to the Mediterranean diet and promote eating natural, raw foods mostly grown in their immediate farming areas.  

6. An Evening Glass of Wine with Friends 

This one may surprise you, but Blue Zone populations frequently drink 1 to 2 glasses of wine daily. They typically drink in moderation and share with friends during meals. A good quality wine is a natural digestant so it can enhance the absorption of foods eaten. Most Blue Zone inhabitants are known to grow grapes or other produce and make their own unpasteurized wines or other fermented drinks. You can also benefit from the flavonoids in organic wines by drinking a glass or two daily! 

7. Spiritual Beliefs 

Another thing that these populations have in common is some form of community-shared faith. For example, one Blue Zone Community, the Adventists in California, outlive the average American by a decade. This community is a closely knit group that attends faith-based services several times a month together. These practices help them feel more connected to one another with a greater sense of belonging. 

8. Family First 

Many of the Blue Zone inhabitants have strong family ties and put their family first. They take care of aging elders and grandparents and live very near their children. Since the family functions as a unit, they share home responsibilities and duties. They invest time in creating a strong family unit to share love and activities with one another.  

9. Social Circles 

Blue Zone communities have one other stark benefit – they support and uplift one another. These tight-knit communities form loving, close social circles that support healthy behaviors. They are committed to caring for one another throughout their lives. Similarly, they encourage each other to follow healthy habits such as regular exercise, healthy eating, and avoiding smoking.  

While a small portion of your longevity may be outside of your control, many of the choices that you make throughout life can help you to life longer and more healthfully. Blue Zone communities live longer because they encourage a healthy environment, both physically and mentally.  

Practicing any or all of these Power 9 factors can help you to live a happier, healthier life and add years to your lifespan. OK, so what are you waiting for? 

Resources

  1. Buettner D, Skemp S. Blue Zones: Lessons From the World's Longest Lived. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2016;10(5):318–321. Published 2016 Jul 7. doi:10.1177/1559827616637066