The longest-living people all had nine key lifestyle habits in common : live move naturally, have purpose, manage stress, less eat, eat plant-based, less alcogol, collaborate with others, love someone, entertain with others.
In the US, the average life expectancy is 78 years. But there are a few places in the world—specifically Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Icaria, Greece—where living to be over 100 isn’t uncommon at all. In these regions, known as Blue Zones, the life expectancy isn’t just higher; centenarians are generally also healthy, their minds and bodies still working well.
National Geographic journalist Dan Buettner spent years studying each culture, pinpointing the exact reasons why they thrived before publishing his findings in the best selling book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Buettner found that despite the geographical differences, people living in the Blue Zones all had nine key lifestyle habits in common, which he named the “Power 9.”
1. Move naturally
Buettner found that in all the Blue Zones communities, movement was a regular part of daily life for the residents. Even in their advanced age, he saw centenarians working in the fields and throughout the village. Our jobs are a lot more sedentary. But it is always possible to find at least 30 minutes three times a week for walking, cycling, gardening or any other type of exercise to your liking.
2. Have a larger purpose
Having a clear sense of why you wake up in the morning is connected to living a long, healthy life.
You have to have a reason to get out of bed every morning. Something that pushes and motivates you. For without purpose it is next to impossible to maintain the healthy behaviors and lifestyle that is conducive to a long and healthy life.
3. Manage your stress
During his time in China, he saw that simple lifestyle habits such as eating nourishing foods, being physically active, getting good sleep, and socializing with family and neighbors all helped negate the stress the townspeople experienced, showing that the pillars are intertwined and connected to each other.
4. Eat until you are 80 percent full
Here in the States, generous, oversized portions of food are valued greatly. But in Blue Zones, Buettner found that people stopped eating when they were mostly full, not when they finished everything on their plate or were too stuffed to eat another bite. He also observed that the biggest meal of the day occurred in late afternoon or early evening, not right close to bedtime.
While we’re on the subject of food, people in Blue Zones tend to eat a diet that’s primarily plant-based, consuming meat only a few times a month on special occasions.
6. Moderate alcohol consumption
Across Blue Zones, Buettner observed that alcohol was consumed, but moderately, at one to two glasses a day, with friends or food. This makes sense, as light to moderate drinking (particularly of wine) has been associated with a longer lifespan. According to a 2017 333,000-person, eight-year analysis, those who enjoyed an occasional drink—seven or less per week, to be exact—were 20 percent less likely to die of any cause and 25 percent to 30 percent less likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those who were completely sober. The key, of course, is to be mindful.
7. Find your community
A sense of family and community is important in all Blue Zones communities.
Research showed that as long as people stayed in the village and adopted the village lifestyle, they were healthy and aging was slowed. However, if they left for employment in one of the big cities then their health suffered.
8. Stay close with family
Similarly, in Blue Zones, families tend to be close, both geographically and emotionally. Younger generations value and help care for older ones.
9. Maintain a fulfilling social life
People in Blue Zones areas not only have supportive families and communities, they actively participate in them. For some, faith may be the cornerstone of their social life and can provide both comfort and camaraderie through a shared beliefs system.