What if there existed a fountain of youth, one source that would promise you to live to 100 years of age while remaining healthy, happy and still mentally strong?
Would you travel to the edges of the Earth? What would you pay for a vial of this elixir?
There are many fads, supplements, procedures and medications that promise vitality, and a healthier life. Quick fixes that target our greatest fears of aging and death. There may be some truth in the gimmick, those may have healthy benefits, but sadly there is no magic fountain or quick fix.
The secret to longevity is not in one single tip, fad, or pill but rather in living a lifestyle that promotes longevity. There are pockets around the world where people are far outliving the average age, and living old with vitality as well.
These pockets were coined Blue Zones by researcher Dan Buetner, and there are 5 official and original Zones:
- Okinawa, Japan;
- Sardinia, Italy;
- Loma Linda, CA;
- Ikaria, Greece;
- Nicoya, Costa Rica.
These places have the highest percentage of known centenarians around the world. Researchers have found 9 common similarities to these regions that explain the extraordinary longevity of their people.
The Power 9, a secret to longevity?
The Power 9 is not a quick fix, not a fountain of youth to instantly make you younger. It is a journey, and a lifestyle. There is no guarantee in life that it will make you disease free and healthy for 100 years, but by incorporating even a few of the Power 9 practices into your life, you may be able to have more quality and quantity of years now and in the future.
No thousands of dollars spent, no quest across the world looking for shamans and fairies, and no side effects other than a happy life.
The Power 9 – the secret to longevity as tested across the world:
1. Move naturally
People in the Bluezones are not Olympic athletes; they don’t go to the gym every day or run marathons. They find small ways to be active everyday and they center their lives on physical movement. They walk, garden and take out the conveniences of modern living like vacuuming with a machine and opting for a good old broomstick.
Ways to move a bit more naturally:
- walking with loved ones or a dog after dinner,
- parking further away from the entrance to a store,
- taking the stairs,
- walking and talking on the phone,
- cooking dinner,
- taking multiple trips up and down the stairs.
As you can see it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment to “work out” the general idea is sit less and move more.
Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy. The Okinawans call it “ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida”—for both, it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.”
In yoga we call it our intention or mission statement. Your purpose can change, your intention may shift from moment to moment but know what matters to you.
Is it family, is it finding balance in our life?
Work on your passions and your goals and then take time to incorporate them into your life.
3. Down shift
Stress is unavoidable. It’s how you shed the stress that matters.
Bluezone centenarians experience stress too, but they take time to destress.
Okinawans take time to praise their ancestors, Ikarians take naps and Sardinians have happy hour.
Stress leads to inflammation, which is associated with many major diseases.
Your stress release practice is up to you, it could be :
- having tea with yourself at 5:00;
- singing karaoke with your partner;
Whatever it is, do it on a consistent daily basis.
4. The 80% rule
Before meals, Okinawans say “Hara hachi bu,” a 2500-year old Confucian mantra, reminding them to stop eating when their stomach is 80% full.
Leaving that gap can be the difference between gaining weight or maintaining it.
The 80% rule is not just about weight but also about feeling satisfied with your meal, and being more mindful and connected with your body’s hunger cues, which leads to understanding your body more.
5. Plant Slant
Most of the communities in Bluezones eat meat less than five times a year.
Not ready to give up meat? No problem. Begin to shift your focus to fruits and vegetables. Make meat the side dish and veggies the star, and aim for only single serving sizes of meat (a deck of cards) in meals and try including a night of meatless options.
Lentils, soy, beans and nuts have wonderful health properties, so try to include them as a protein source at least once a week.
Adding an ounce of nuts every day can add 2-3 years to your life!
6. Wine @ 5
In all of these communities, except for California’s Adventists in Loma Linda, drinking is a part of life. Many of these cultures include a glass of wine at night or in social settings.
Wine has great antioxidant properties and plant compounds that are heart healthy and help to reduce risk of cancer and dementia.
Remember to make it a social occasion and limit drinking to 1-2 glasses a night.
Going overboard will replace positive effects with negative and can cause negative effects.
If you don’t already drink, think twice before adding it in just to receive the benefits, and always drink responsibly.
All except 5 of the 263 centenarians first interviewed belonged to a faith-based community.
Having purpose throughout life and even after, as well as many of the other 8 traits of longevity belonging to a community of like minded faith, can add 4 to14 years of life regardless of dominion.
If you belong to a faith, cherish what you have. If you are not religious, find your source of belonging to a community of like-minded people.
That can be a walking group, a knitting club, a volunteer organization or your favorite yoga and workout community!
8. Loved Ones First
People in the Blue Zones put family first. Whether it means being in a committed relationship or living close to family, they spend time with the ones they love.
Many of the cultures also care for their elderly parents or grandparents in their home, keeping generations close by.
This practice can add 6 years to your life.
Spend more time with the elders and children in your family; there is great benefit to intermingling with other generations!
9. Find your Tribe
Okinawans build “moais” groups of five friends that commit to each other for life. You are either born into a tribe or you get to choose the tribe into which you belong to, or maybe both.
Having a tight social group that you interact with consistently can have physical and mental wellbeing benefits.
Happiness and loneliness are contagious. Find people that lift you up and that enjoy and believe in the same principles as you do. Take the time to laugh, love and be joyful with them.
Friends and tribes are great for the sad parts of life, to work through the drama but make sure there are plenty of light times as well.
All these practices will add years to your life and life to your years. If you want to know how many years you could gain by making a few changes in your lifestyle, you have to take the RealAge Test! It will tell you how “old” your body is based on your current lifestyle and offer actionable improvements to live longer.
Take the Pledge
The secret to longevity is simple and yet complex, you don’t have to change your life completely but begin by finding one small thing in each category that you can work on. Look at your life and see what you already do and see what you can add into.
Here in Monterey we are trying to make our own Blue Zone community. A community wide well-being initiative encouraging everyone to make healthy choices a part of life. We need everyone to participate to make big changes, and improve our community’s well being.
Take the pledge today to do your part to not only change your life and add years to it but to change your community as well.
NEW MOAI – Starts July 9, 2021 – Marina, CA
Join our 10-week walking Moai to connect with your community. Come move naturally, create a sense of belonging with new friends and add years to your life click the link below!