In the United States the average male lives to be 76 and female to 81. Dan Buettner and his research say almost anyone can add at least 12 years to that figure – and you can do it without stress or strain. You do it with the exact opposite.
Dan has been researching what he calls Blue Zones around the world since 1990. He searched for the places where people are consistently living longer, healthier lives and he has identified demographics and geographic locations where people live measurably longer lives. Dan studied the work of Gianni Pes and Michael Poulain who first discovered that Sardinia had the largest concentration of male 100 year olds in the world. These two men drew circles around the locations they were identifying and they became known as Blue Zones.
Dan Buettner and Michael Poulain teamed up and have identified 7 Blue Zones.
Icaria, Greece: Had the largest percentage of people living into their 90’s; over 33%. They also has the lowest rates of cancer and heart disease and dementia. Potatoes, goat’s milk, honey and beans dominate the diet.
The people inhabiting Blue Zones share common lifestyle characteristics that contribute to their longevity.
• Family is place ahead of other concerns
• Less smoking
• Semi-vegetarianism – except for the Sardinian diet, the majority of food consumed is derived from plants. The Mediterranean Diet.
• Constant moderate physical activity integrated into daily life
• Social engagement – people of all ages are socially active and integrated into their communities
• Legumes – commonly consumed
Dan Buettner lists nine lessons he discovered in the lifestyle of blue zones people.
• Moderate, regular physical activity.
• Moderate alcohol intake, especially wine.
• Engagement in family life.
• Engagement in social life.
In response to these discoveries, Dan and AARP set up The AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project. It is a combination of several initiatives; habitat, social networking, community ad purpose. From AAPR:
Walking Moai Program: Over 500 participants joined approximately 70 "walking moais," which were groups of 4-10 walkers who agreed to meet once a week and walk to a set destination and back. They collectively walked over 75 million steps and approximately 32,000 miles. In addition, Walking Moai participants did over 2,200 hours of volunteer work. Both steps and volunteer hours were compiled for each group as part of an overall Walking Moai competition.
Walking School Bus: The Walking School Bus Program found parents and volunteers to walk with groups of children to their respective elementary schools. A walking bus is said to encourage children to walk more, help build social networks, and assist in keeping kids safe on their way to school.
Vitality Compass: The Vitality Compass is an online tool which is now available nationwide. It asks participants questions about their eating habits, sleeping habits, levels of stress, and amount of daily activity. At the end of the online survey, participants are given an age which is their approximate life expectancy. For the purposes of determining the efficacy of certain aspects of the Vitality Project participants were asked to take the Vitality Compass twice; once at the beginning of the program and again at the end. The average life expectancy for those who took the Vitality Compass at the beginning and at the end of the program increased by three years.
Volunteering: Vitality Project organizers encouraged participants to volunteer in their community.
Employers: Employers were encouraged to make their work environments more amenable to practices leading to good health. For example, some employers added healthy alternatives to vending machines.
Grocery Stores: Vitality Project organizers encouraged grocery stores to feature those foods which are thought to engender better health and increased life expectancy.
Neighborhood Picnics: To encourage community building and social networking, several neighborhood picnics were held and all people in a given neighborhood were invited to attend.
Community Gardens: The City of Albert Lea in cooperation with the Vitality Project made space available for citizens of Albert Lea to plant vegetables and flowers.
Purpose Workshops: Workshops addressing the importance of finding one's sense of purpose were provided to Albert Lea for free.
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