Saturday, September 12, 2009

Marathons Not Required

The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner reports on a quest to find small pockets of extreme human longevity around the world. Dan and his team report on four places - Sardinia, Okinowa, Loma Linda and Costa Rica - where an exceptionally high proportion of the people live into their 90's and 100's.

What I find most interesting about these stories is the things these places have in common, and the things we can incorporate into our own lives to be healthier and happier.

Not surprisingly, there are no marathoners or triathletes among the longevity champions. That's not to say they spent their lives on the sofa searching for sit-com reruns with the remote while snacking on Pringles, but they didn't spend hours and hours working out either. Instead, all the old-timers lived lives that included steady, regular, moderate low-intensity exercise in their day-to-day activities. They walked or cycled to get around. They hiked to pastures to tend sheep. They worked on the farm or in the garden.

Eating habits seem equally important. Blue Zoners ate lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, usually grown or gathered personally. They drank lots of water. While they did eat meat, it was consumed rarely and usually on special occasions. Foods mentioned in the book that I hope to eat more frequently include: tumeric, fava beans, miso soup, tofu, sweet potatoes, ginger, nuts and tomatoes.

Family connections also seem essential to long-term survival. Many of these people live in multi-generational homes. In a tradition that is almost unknown in America today, children, parents and grandparents all live in the same house and support each other. The grandparents have something to do in helping with the children and the children benefit from the wisdom of the ages.

Whether it's watching the grandchildren or volunteering in the community, a reason to live seems extremely important in living a long and happy life. We all need love and companionship, and helping others is a great way to get it.


SimplyTim said...


It's one of my favorites also.

In Okinowa they have a word highlighted by Buettner: Akigai. Rough translation is: One's reason for waking up in the morning.

It captures one of the quiet driving forces in the universe.


Paul said...

MM, none of the lessons in the book were new or earth shaking taken individually. For me the benefit was in seeing the lessons pulled together and put in perspective in the examples.