These are pockets of the world where people have fewer chronic conditions and en masse live longer. The five known Blue Zones are:
- Icaria – Greece
- Sardinia – Italy
- Okinawa – Japan
- Nicoya Peninsula – Costa Rica
- The Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California – United States.
Research has uncovered some very interesting findings as to why these people live longer and healthier. Surprisingly, genetics only accounts for 20 to 30 per cent of longevity. Instead, the key determining factors are environmental factors, such as diet and lifestyle.
Examples of lifestyle factors are things like building exercise into daily life through walking, taking the stairs and gardening. Another key lifestyle factor is getting a good amount of sleep, and a daytime nap (no longer than 30 minutes) is considered very beneficial.
It is probably no surprise that eating well (and not too much), exercising regularly and enjoying a replenishing sleep also pays dividends to your longevity and quality of life.
It is the other habits of people who live in the Blue Zones, however, that may be more unexpected.
- Being religious or spiritual
- Having a life purpose
- Older and younger people living together or grandparents caring for grandchildren
- A healthy social network.
Unfortunately for us in Australia, the 2018 Australian Loneliness Report reveals chronic loneliness is on the rise. As many as one in four of us lack strong and meaningful relationships in our lives. This can be triggered by the death of a partner or retiring from the workplace. People who experience mental health issues, Aboriginal or Torres Straight Islanders, recent migrants and members of the LGBTI community also have a much higher proportional risk.
We know that making small and sustainable changes to our eating, exercise habits and alcohol consumption can benefit our physical health. The same approach can be used to combat the loneliness that can accompany changes such as the death of a partner or retirement.
From running the Living Longer Living Stronger™ (now called Strength For Life) strength-training program for nearly 20 years, we know that one of the key ingredients of its success is the tea and coffee session after the workout. Yes, physical activity and eating well are vital for our health and longevity, but equally so is feeling part of a group, a sense of belonging and the ability to meet new (and possibly like-minded) people.
So, if you join one of our Strength For Life programs, be sure to stay for the cuppa afterwards – your mental health will thank you for it!