The whole idea of Blue Zones fascinates me: the fact that people are living longer, healthier lives in certain places of the world shows that some people are doing something right … and most of us in America are doing something wrong. In Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner describes his visits to four of the world’s known Blue Zones: areas where people regularly live past the age of 100 while experiencing lower rates of degenerative disease. After studying these cultures, Buettner and his team of researchers identified nine lifestyle habits related to longevity. And they’re not what you may expect.
Only one of the “Power 9” is associated with physical exercise. Two have to do with food. One actually involves alcohol, and the rest involve adopting the proper outlook on life and building strong social networks.
In the book, Buettner discusses his Blue Zone travels at length. I could have done with less of the logistical information, but some of the stories about the people he encounters are amazing — like the 99-year-old man who still waterskis, or the 100-year-old woman who starts every day by walking a mile and lifting weights. But for me, the real meat of the book came in the last chapter: suggestions on how to incorporate the Power 9 into your daily life. This chapter is packed with fascinating statistics from longevity studies — for instance, there was a sudden increase in deaths among the elderly after December 31, 1999, since people who may have willed themselves to stay alive to see the year 2000 no longer had something to live for.
For many Americans, adopting even a few of the suggested lifestyle habits would be a radical lifestyle change — such as eating meat only twice a week and stopping eating when you are 80 percent full. Buettner points out that adopting even one or two longevity habits can extend your life, and that starting with the ones that are easiest for you can help you gain the motivation to continue on and try others. Buettner does not offer a one-size-fits-all timeline for adopting the Power 9, but gives readers advice on selecting the habits that speak directly to them and on making lasting lifestyle changes.
If you’re interested in learning how to extend your life — and how to infuse even your later years with increased health and vitality — taking a lesson from the Blue Zone inhabitants could by an eye-opening experience.
Also look for Buetter’s follow-up book, Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way.
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