The discovery of “Blue Zones” was made in 2004 by Dan Buettner and his team with participants from National Geographic and National Institute on Aging. “Blue Zones” are what they called five towns across the globe where people reach age 100 at 10 times greater rates than the average in the U.S.
They then studied these towns to identify the lifestyle characteristic that could explain the increased longevity. In 2008, Dan Buettner published a book that details the nine evidence-based specific characteristics that are believed to slow the aging process.
The 9 characteristics that are outlined in the book are:
1. Move naturally – walk, garden
2. Know your purpose in life
3. Have a routine to shed stress
4. Stop eating when you are 80% full, eat a small meal for dinner, no eating after that
5. Eat a lot of plants, consume meat about once per week
6. Drink alcohol modestly and regularly, one to two glasses per day with friends or food
7. Belong to some faith-based community, attend services four times per month
8. Put family first
9. Belong to a social network that supports healthy behavior
Although these behaviors seem like things that individuals can implement, the Blue Zones Project has found that putting the responsibility of creating a healthy environment on the individual does not work. The have found that when their group comes to your town and works through policy and environmental changes that communities have been able to increase life expectancy.
Healthy Adams County became aware of this book sometime around 2012 and contacted the Blue Zone Project to inquire about instituting a “Blue Zone” in Adams County. The fee was, drumroll, $2 million for them to come to our area and recommend the changes needed to achieve Blue Zone status.
So, lacking $2 million we instead founded the Community Wellness Connection group, our home-grown effort to instill the same healthy lifestyles recommended by the Blue Zone books and Project. We have rolled the nine characteristics into four focus areas – mind, body, community and spirit.
Each quarter we focus on a different one of these areas through newspaper articles and we offer free activities that help with different aspects of each. You can find more info about this on our website at adamswellness.org. If you are interested in participating, or knowing more, please contact Jen Gastley at [email protected].
Interestingly I saw an article in the January 2022 Eating Well magazine by Jessica Ball summarizing the Blue Zone research and recommendations.
She summarizes 10 things people can do every day to help lead a longer, healthier life. Her 10 are: 1. Hydrate; 2. Stop eating when you are 80% full; 3. Snack on nuts; 4. Eat beans daily; 5. Walk when you run errands; 6. Schedule in social time; 7. Make time for hobbies; 8. Surround yourself with support; 9. Limit meat to once per week; and 10. Drink alcohol in moderation. So, some the same, but some different. But like our CWC focus areas all are intended as ways to help people lead healthier lives for more years. Please contact us if you have questions.
Betsy Meyer is a member of the Community Wellness Connections Committee and chair of Healthy Adams County’s Physical Fitness Task Force.