Have you heard about the Blue Zones? They’re five areas around the world, including Okinawa, Japan and Ikaria, Greece, where people naturally live long, happy, healthy lives. Researchers have discovered that genetics is only responsible for about 20% of how long you live and the other 80% comes down to the way you live. Dan Buettner, who first covered Blue Zones for “National Geographic” has created the Blue Zones Challenge, a four-week plan to help you live a longer, healthier life.
Blue Zones residents don’t really have to think about making healthy choices because they’re built into their lifestyles. This challenge helps you make long-term changes that can help you live longer and happier, according to Buettner, and this is how to get started:
- Connect with people who support your goals - Having a social network is key for a healthy lifestyle. You need at least one Blue Zones buddy, if not two or three, who you can count on to care about you and who like being active, then stay connected with them a few times a week, even if it’s only by phone.
- Consider what you eat and how you move - Buettner says eating a whole-food, plant-based diet can probably add six years of life expectancy over eating the standard American diet. Sit on the floor sometimes to read or work because getting up and down builds strength. Also, put your walking shoes out where you’ll see them and be reminded to use them.
- Find your purpose - Blue Zones residents have a sense of purpose that shapes their lives and Buettner explains that research shows people who can articulate their sense of purpose live about eight years longer than those who aren’t sure about theirs.
Not ready for the Blue Zones Challenge? Try these simple tips to boost longevity:
- Eat a handful of nuts every day - Nut eaters live about two years longer than non-nut eaters
- Learn to like beans - Eating a cup a day could add four years to your life expectancy
- If you drink alcohol, make it wine - Specifically cannonau wine, which is what people in the Blue Zone of Sardinia, Italy, drink and it has three times the healthy polyphenols of other wines.
Photo: Getty Images