Living to a ripe old age requires careful attention to one’s lifestyle habits. While some factors may remain out of reach—such as genetics and luck—there is much we can do to promote longevity, vitality, and overall wellbeing. Drawing from their years of research, the experts at National Geographic have identified nine core habits found among people living in five “blue zones” around the world, where remarkable health and longevity records are held. Whether you’re looking to make small changes or a complete transformation in your daily life, here are nine blue zone habits that can help you optimize both your life and health span.
In most blue zones, physical activity is woven into the fabric of everyday life, rather than being something that is concertedly tracked and fretted over. One habit to pick up is taking light strolls throughout the day to keep the body moving, rather than trying to fit in a hard workout all at once. This type of natural movement helps to break up sitting time, is easy on the joints, and can become part of a larger goal, such as window shopping for groceries before returning home.
Choose Simple Exercise
Exercise does not have to be vigorous and high-intensity—in fact, it’s often best not to overdo it. Many of the folks living long, healthy lives in the blue zones participate in simple forms of exercise like walking, gardening, and hoisting buckets of water around homesteads. Low impact, low stress-level exercise is the way to go for blue zone residents, and for you too.
Mix It Up
The importance of keeping active does not end at simply exercising—it’s important to try a plethora of activities as well. Doing something as simple as dancing with a partner, throwing horseshoes, or playing with kids or grandkids keeps the mind engaged, the joints lubricated, and the heart happy. If you don’t know where to start, it could be as simple as taking the family dog out on a walk around the park a few times per week.
Move It Up
Though mild, low-impact exercise is highly encouraged in all blue zones, this should be supplement by occasional heavier activities that get the heart rate up to a healthy level. These workouts may take on a dozen different forms, but includes things such as bear crawls, walking up hills or inclines, or jumping on a small trampoline or rebounder.
Consume Healthy Proteins
The red meat consumed in blue zones largely comes from animals who were grass-fed in the wild, and is said to contain multiple essential fatty acids and higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid compared to conventional meats. Stick to the appropriately portioned meats that appear in the diets of blue zone residents and opt for fish whenever possible.
Having an occasional glass of wine can be beneficial and can do wonders to improve social situations, but excessive drinking is another matter entirely. Avoid binging and keep level-headed if you decide to partake; the latest health and longevity research suggests that folks in the blue zones enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and never resort to excess.
Remain Positive and Social
Having face time with family, friends, and community members is profoundly important for both mental and physical wellbeing in the blue zones. Keep faith in a higher power to quiet the mind and stay close to friends and family to remain connected and positive. It’s also important to find a supportive, close-knit group to surround yourself with—this will create a feeling of belonging and contentment.
Less Is More
Eating only until you’re 80% full is a great way to control what you take in and also how satisfied you feel after meals. When it comes to snacks and desserts, its best to indulge sparingly—blue zone residents enjoy their sweets only a couple times per month, if at all.
Take Time for Rest
Resting is essential for activating the parasympathetic nervous system and allowing the body to properly revitalize and heal. Set aside hours to do activities such as taking a nap, reading, socializing, or meditating.
Pay Attention To Your Plate
Most blue zoners tend to get the majority of their nutrients from plants prepared in simple, homemade recipes. Enjoy colorful fruits and vegetables to get the micronutrients and fiber your body requires for optimal function.
These nine blue zone habits offer chances for improving both your life and health span. By incorporating these practices into your regular routine, you’ll experience the joys of living a longer, healthier life and will start to witness its effects in as little as a few weeks.