Lessons for living longer

Blue Zones

Have you heard about Blue Zones? I kept hearing about Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones again and again until I decided, ok, I need to get the book to find out more. Buettner researched the world’s longest living people and shared what he found about these Blue Zone communities in his book.

It started with Buettner writing a story for his employer, at the time National Geographic, about the ‘Secrets of Long Life’. Buettner profiled three areas in the world with higher concentrations of the longest living people – areas which were named Blue Zones by demographers. In his later research, Buettner found these clusters of longevity were confined to specific pockets rather than the whole geographical areas suggesting that environment and lifestyle were more likely factors than genetics. Pockets of higher numbers of centenarians were found in diverse locations including Japan, Sardinia, Costa Rica and California.

Secrets of the world’s oldest people

Buettner’s team started by meeting centenarians to find out the secrets of the extra years in their lives. They found in each of these specific geographical pockets, whilst there were factors which likely contributed to the longevity of their people, there were also a number of common factors. A few of the common factors identified include, not surprisingly, a moderate diet – both in the amount eaten and the type of food, natural movement such as walking or gardening, a sense of purpose (or Ikigai as its called in the Blue Zone Japanese island of Okinawa) and the importance of family or community.

Live long and live well

Another important point in the Blue Zones research was that they found their interviews hindered by the health of some of the centenarians- some being unable to walk, see, hear or other impaired functioning. They therefore changed their interview criteria to a younger old age making their focus living well into old age. In these concentrated areas, they found many lived active lives well into their 80s and 90s. The message here is to live long and to live well.

So what the reason for me writing about this? Think about it – what are common measures of health in our society? What measures of health do you have personally? Measures of health sounds very business-like I know – a bit like a performance appraisal. But what I mean is what factors do you use to rate your health.

Falling in love with healthy

Whilst Buettner’s research did find that normal body weight was a common factor in longevity, in my view, weight and diet have been given too much focus in our society. When we decide to lose weight or to ‘go on a diet’ we go into that whole punitive and restrictive thinking that often has the opposite effect. We decide we need to exercise x times a week, we can’t eat y and z foods – no wonder most people go straight back to their old habits often regaining more once they near their target weight.

  • How different would it be if you instead focus firmly on health?
  • How different would it be if you were to fall in love with healthy?
  • What if you take your focus to enjoying healthy lifestyle habits – to where I can’t or I need to is replaced by I want to (trust me, restoring your natural weight will follow).

I suggest we throw out the outdated obsession with weight and scales and turn our attention to positive measures of living well and living long.

Three simple tips to help you change your focus from weight loss to healthy include:

  • Moderation: enjoy balance rather than extremes
  • Pareto’s 80/20 rule (or 90/10). Yes you can still eat cake and wine – just make it the 20% rather than the 80!
  • Ask yourself, what for. Keep asking yourself this question to get to the why behind  your desired weight loss or health changes.

Focus on the life in your years rather than the years in  your life.

My work takes a 100% focus on feel-good balanced health. I work on a one-to-one basis with a small number of clients to change thinking and behaviours and shift focus from weight loss to health.

If you’d like one-to-one support to help you enjoy healthier lifestyle habits to add years to your life and life to your years whilst leaving behind an unhealthy obsession with weight, get in touch here

Latest News

  • Over the next 5 months I’m doing an Advanced Yoga Teacher Training course with my favourite US yoga teacher Jason Crandell. The training’s intensive, with a strong focus on anatomy and injury management and I’m loving it and excited about applying all the learning (and some unlearning with more contemporary physical and functionally updated teaching) to my teaching. I’ll be changing format to shorter more regular mailings to share my journey and keep you inspired to enjoy feel-good balanced health. If you’re not already on my mailing list, sign up here to make sure you hear from me.
  • If you’re not already in my online Think Healthy Be Healthy online yoga membership, you can try it out here with my free 7 Days of Yoga. There are over 130 yoga and meditation classes already in my membership with more added every fortnight. The current block is on Building a Strong Core and also Tight Shoulders and Hips Yoga – who doesn’t need these!

Photo courtesy of Karolina Grabowska on pexels.com