What’s one of the biggest differences between an average American’s day and a typical day in the life of someone who lives in one of the world’s Blue Zones?
According to Dan Buettner, a National Geographic explorer whose work and research has identified five locations around the world—the Blue Zones—where people live the longest, it’s movement.
“Our team found that people [in these places] are nudged into physical activity every 20 minutes or so,” Buettner told Today reporters Linda Carroll and Jake Whitman. “They’re walking to their friend’s house. They’re going down to the garden. They’re kneading bread with their hands. It’s natural movement. It’s something they don’t have to think about. It’s not something that requires discipline.”
Of course, while this is one of the biggest elements that Buettner and his team attributed to the longevity of people who live in the Blue Zones, it certainly isn’t the only one.
From Ikaria, Greece to Nicoya, Costa Rica, years of investigative research has helped to identify the daily habits and diets of people who, on average, are living to an age of 100 at a rate 10 times greater than in the United States.
Where exactly do these people live? You may be surprised to learn that some of them actually reside in the U.S. In Loma Linda, California, members of the Adventist community outlive the average American by 10 years.
Then there are the people from Ikaria in Greece: compared to Americans, they tend to live eight years longer, experience 20 percent less cancer and 50 percent less heart disease, and have almost no cases of dementia.
Sardinia, Italy is home to more male centenarians than anywhere else on earth; the world’s longest- lived women come from Okinawa, Japan; and in Nicoya, Costa Rica, compared to Americans, people are more than twice as likely to reach the age of 90.
These are the world’s Blue Zones, and through extensive research, Buettner and his team have found their examples can teach us a lot about living a truly healthy life.
Here are a few valuable lessons in longevity from each region.
Ikaria, Greece: The Lifestyle
According to a 2012 NY Times article by Buettner, the “traditional folk” of Ikaria live relaxing yet active lives. They wake naturally, spend time working in their gardens, eat late lunches followed by naps and after sunset, spend quality time socializing with their neighbors. Traditional exercise (think running, cycling, CrossFit) isn’t a large part of the Ikarian lifestyle. Buetnner said, “it played a small role at best.” Instead, he suspects it’s a combination of their healthful diet and daily socializing that contributes most to their unprecedented longevity.
Ikaria, Greece: The Diet:
Buettner reported that the Ikarian diet consisted mainly of vegetables harvested from their gardens, legumes, leafy greens and “plenty” of olive oil. “Their diet was also typical: a breakfast of goat’s milk, wine, sage tea or coffee, honey and bread,” Buettner wrote. “Lunch was almost always beans (lentils, garbanzos), potatoes, greens (fennel, dandelion or a spinachlike green called horta) and whatever seasonal vegetables their garden produced; dinner was bread and goat’s milk.” Additionally, according to Buettner, Ikarians are known for drinking many antioxidant-rich herbal teas made with ingredients like wild mint or rosemary.