Having such a wealth of knowledge and information about every topic on the planet at our fingertips is a double edged sword. You can find articles online promising that just about anything is both good and bad for you, that you need to be taking dozens of supplements and doing every type of exercise. It’s information overload and many people throw in the towel because it feels like a game that you can’t win without giving up all the things you enjoy and running yourself into the ground. So how do we filter out the things that really matter? How do we determine the habits that will give us the most bang for our buck?
We can’t determine what will make a significant impact on longevity and more important healthgevity (who wants to live longer unless you feel good?) without looking at the long game. We need to look at who is getting the results that we want over a lifetime. Who on the planet is actually living the longest and healthiest?
Biogerontologist, scientists who study the biological basis of aging and age-related diseases, have identified regions of the world where people live the longest (have the most centenarians – people living to 100) and are the healthiest (the fewest cases of degenerative diseases). Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow, has dedicated his life to the study of these regions and has deemed the top five in the world ”Blue Zones” and has identified 9 lifestyle habits that they have in common as the “Power 9”.
We’re going to do an overview this week and an in-depth dive into one per week, over the next nine weeks. But I can’t say enough about Dan’s research and highly recommend you read his books including my favorites “Blue Zones” and “The Blue Zones Challenge”.
An Overview of the Power 9
1. Move Naturally
The world’s longest-lived people move every day, all day as a natural part of their lifestyle. Exercise is a part of life. Instead of feeling like you have to run a marathon, try incorporating more movement into your day. Take the stairs, use hand tools, set alarms to move regularly, commit to taking a quick walk after each meal. Keep it simple and frequent!
Studies show that knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy! Purpose doesn’t have to be extreme or complicated. Purpose can be taken just one day or one moment at a time. Setting a purpose like bringing more joy to the people in the room or at work or with your family is enough. Keep it simple!
3. Down Shift
Stress is a normal part of life on this planet but chronic unresolved stress leads to inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. What people in the Blue Zones have in common is that they take the time to de-stress! Check out our blog on offloading stress and create daily stress relieving habits so that stress hormones don’t wreak havoc on your body.
4. 80% Rule
Stop eating when you’re 80% full rather than having the trigger to stop eating be the pain of overconsumption. Eating lighter is a habit that gets easier with practice and leads to lower body weight over time which correlates to less inflammation, less degenerative disease, more energy and a longer life.
5. Plant Slant
Reduce or eliminate animal product consumption, eat 95-100% plant-based foods, snack on nuts, drink lots of water, and eat as many whole, unprocessed foods as possible.
6. Wine @ 5
I think most of us are relieved to hear that moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers! The longest living people on earth drink 1-2 glasses per day, with friends and/or food. Remember, however, that if you go overboard, the positive effects will be replaced with negative habits, so be mindful of your intake.
All but five of the 263 centenarians interviewed belonged to some type of civic- or faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t matter. Find a community of people who come together, support one another, and believe in a greater good!
8. Loved Ones First
Prioritizing family can take shape in many ways, from investing time and love into your children to keeping aging parents and grandparents in or near your home. Family includes being in a committed relationship which can add up to 6 years of life expectancy! Family can mean something different to everyone but the world’s longest living people create and prioritize close relationships.
9. Right Tribe
We’ve all heard that you become like the five people you spend the most time with. People in Blue Zones belong to social circles that support healthy behaviors. Research consistently shows that both good and bad behaviors are contagious. Choose your tribe wisely!
About 40% of people in the U.S. set New Year’s resolutions and only 9% report having any measure of success. I am excited to finish off 2022 and head into the new year with actionable goals instead of fleeting resolutions! We’re going to start small and implement a few easy, sustainable actions each week that will lead us into living healthier, longer lives in 2023 and beyond!
Craig Zager & The Zager Group