Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Blue Zone Lessons for more Good Years

I recently finished a book I recently finished a book -  The Blue Zones – 9 Lessons for Living Longer  - From the people who’ve lived the longest by Dan Buettner (1).  The book reveals the secrets of the world’s longest lived people Sardinia, Italy, Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica;  Ikaria, Greece;  and Okinawa, Japan.

The Power Nine covers the following life domains;
What to DO to optimize your lifestyle for a longer, healthier life;
How to THINK;
How to EAT;
And How to Build SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS that support your good habits

Although the 9 Lessons are nothing new, it’s the combination of maintaining these common elements of  lifestyle, diet, and outlook that have led to an amazing quantity and quality of life.

1)    Move Naturally
2)    Hara Hachi Bu – Stop eating when 80% full
3)    Plant Slant – Eat Vegetables, Beans and avoid Red Meat.
4)    Drink Red Wine
5)    Have Purpose – “Why I wake up in the morning”
6)    Downshift – Take time to relieve Stress.
7)    Belong – Participate in a Spiritual Community
8)    Loved Ones First – Make family a priority
9)    Right Trivbe – Be surrounded by those who share Blue Zone Values

Rather than going through each of the nine lessons, I will just add a couple of points worth commenting on.  I do encourage you to read the book as it helps to give you a plan on living a longer life with a minimal amount of “disabled” years.

How do you add on more Good Years?

First, you have to change your mind and environment to help shape good habits.
Eating more vegetables, beans, nuts, fish, chicken, and less red meat. Stop the American Diet -  Eat your largest meal in the morning, next at lunch and a lighter meal at dinner.  And - know when to stop eating.

Make physical activity part of your day and not just a chore.   Most centenarians worked most of their lives – well into their 80’s, spending hours in their gardens or naturally walking for miles each day.

According to Dr.Robert Kane of the National Institute of Aging (1) you don’t exercise for the sake of exercising – try to make changes to your lifestyle.   

Ride a bike instead of driving. Walk to the store. Take the stairs instead of elevator. Participate in a group that promotes fitness – bootcamps, Zumba, running/walking clubs & DTF classes.  Print work at a Multi-function printer further from your desk.  Build that into your lifestyle.

As Dr. Kane states - the name of the game here is sustaining.  These things that we try-usually after some cataclysmic event has occurred, and we now want to ward off what seems to be the perceptible threat of dying-don’t hold up over the long haul. We find all sorts of reasons not to do it. (p.16)

Exercise is needed in maintaining your health.  Swimming & skipping is good for cardiovascular exercise (heart health), Walking, standing and running helps to strengthen you bones and prevent osteoporosis,  Tai Chi and Yoga improves your balance and flexibility, Resistance Training helps strengthen and maintain muscle mass.  I recommend at least 2 or 3 days of medium to high intensity workouts focusing on strength – using weights, TRX suspension trainers or your bodyweight.  This not only burns calories but helps reverse the degenerative state and is important for relieving stress. 

Finally, identify your “Inner Circle”.  Ensure that Family comes first.  Surround yourself with positive people that have similar interests.  If you don’t have family, build your social network with neighbors, join a group, fitness class or club that peaks your interest, physically, spiritually and/or mentally.

Aging is not lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
Betty Friedan

(1) The Blue Zones – 9 Lessons for Living Longer  -From the people who’ve lived the longest , Dan Buettner. National Geographic Society  Copyright 2008 Washington, D.C. ISBN 978-1-4262-0948-2