Nick Buettner, in front of a crowd of business owners, professionals, faith-based organizations, government officials and citizens of the county, told those assembled about Blue Zones - areas in the world where individuals live longer and healthier lives. It is common to meet Centenarians - people who are in their 100s - in these areas.
One of the common factors of these "Blue Zones" is that the healthy attitudes of the people come from the culture and environment they live in, rather than something that has been actively pursued by the people living in the region. The statistics that Mr. Buettner shared about the life expectancy of individuals living to 100 in these Blue Zones being about 10 times that of the average American made me think.
If health is ensured through your environment, and not something that is likely to become a long-term lifestyle through perseverance and hard work, perhaps we've got to make some adjustments in our corporate and personal environments.
Of course, this is what we are trying to do at the CHWA, but creating a mini Blue Zone in your corporation to help your employees become healthier one person at a time could have an impact that extends beyond the workplace. So What actually makes a Blue Zone?
Mr. Buettner shared that the longer life expectancy of those living in a blue zone has nine factors to consider:
- Moving Naturally - Living in an environment that pushes you to move more and be less sedentary. They don't use mechanical conveniences for housework or gardening, they simply move more because of the nature of their environment.
- Purpose Driven Life - They tend to understand their place in this life and they know their purpose. They live their lives with this in mind.
- Down Shifting Stress - These centenarians have stress just like the rest of us, but they have routines that tend to "shed the stress" of the day such as prayer, regular reminiscing, napping and happy hour.
- The 80 Percent Rule - Generally people in these Blue Zones tend to eat less. They also are in the habit of eating more foods during the morning and early afternoon hours and eat their smallest meal in the latter part of the day. Once they eat their last small meal of the day, they do not snack.
- Plant Slant - Blue Zone centenarians mostly eat a plant-based diet with legumes. They tend to eat meat fewer than five times per month and when they do have meat it is usually only 3-4 oz. per serving.
- Wine at 5 - Generally, people in Blue Zones drank moderately but regularly. They don't binge drink and tend to keep it to 1 - 2 drinks per day with meals, usually in the evenings.
- Belonging - 98 percent of centenarians interviewed were members of some type of faith-based community of various denominations. Research indicates that attending faith-based services four times per month can add 4-14 years to your life expectancy.
- Loved Ones First - Centenarians in the Blue Zones tend to put their families first. Keeping aging parents and grandparents close by to them, if not actually living in their homes. Studies also showed this lowers mortality rates and disease in children that are in the home. They tend to invest in their children and commit to a life partner.
- Right Tribe - Centenarians tend to have a "tribe" of friends for life who usually share the same values. Unhealthy habits and traits like smoking, obesity, and loneliness are contagious so hanging with like-minded positive people can extend your life.
In looking at these attributes to a long life, I though most of these could be folded into your work life balance. Each attribute above can feasibly be added to your day-to-day life, and as Mr. Buettener's research shows, you'll not only live longer but you'll be healthier.
Creating a reason to move, breathe, work with purpose, and be a positive and upbeat person in a work environment can cause the people around you to have more fulfilling lives and increase productivity. This seems obvious but, should be a practice in your day-to-day life.
With these simple practices at work, you will take less stress home with you and have more to give when you get home to the people you love. Wellness and well-being start with an individual who is motivated and willing to make the necessary environmental changes to make a difference in their own life and the lives of others.
I hope communities will begin to evaluate their environments and push for a natural way to encourage healthy lifestyles and livings. This takes corporations, faith-based organizations, individuals and governments of the communities to come together with a common goal. By coming together in this way, we can make any community a Blue Zone.