There have been a few studies published that have shown that our longevity as humans is only determined 20% by our genes, while the rest is environment and lifestyle. Ever heard of Blue Zones? National Geographic was able to pinpoint the 5 cities (see below map) where the people who reside there produce the most centenarians.
Dan Buetnner and his team traveled to each of these 5 cities to see what the common denominator that they all shared were, and upon their research they found 9 different principles referred to as the Power of 9.
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. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.
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. Down Shift Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, 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 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day.
5. Plant Slant Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month. Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of deck or cards.
6. Wine @ 5 People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all weekend and have 14 drinks on Saturday.
7. Belong All but five of the 263 centenarians we interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t seem to matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will 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 years of life expectancy) and invest in their children with time and love (They’ll be more 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, Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So long-lived people’s health behaviors have been favorable shaped by their social networks.
From this he wrote a book appropriately called "Blue Zones" which outlines the experiences in all the cities as well as going more into depth on the above 9 Principles.
Right when I came to work at Healthways in 2010, it was announced that we were teaming up with Dan Buettner to not only adopt those principles into our work culture, but also r to create different pockets of Blue Zones in the US and called it the Blue Zone Project. It's still in beginning stages as it takes 3 years before really seeing a result (currently have Beach Cities and Iowa underway), but its definitely an area I would be interested in pursuing down the road with the company if an opportunity presented itself.
I've taught a few quick information sessions on the Power of 9, and it really is all about making sure all aspects of your life is fulfilled to making a healthy lifestyle. You'd be amazing at how many people have no purpose in their life. Personally when I was first introduced to Power of 9 I felt overwhelmed as I didn't know what my purpose was, and that is how I fell back into running... another story for another day.
In the process of gathering my stuff at work to switch desks I found that I had an extra copy of the book untouched, so what better way to put it to good use than to do a giveaway with all my healthy readers since it has a major impact on the way I view a healthy lifestyle??
Entry is simple:
1. Be a follower of my blog and tell me so in the comments.
2. Leave a comment of something you do that fits into one of the 9 principles
Winner will be chosen via random.org 1 week from today 1/21/13