In 2005, National Geographic Journalist Dan Buettner introduced the world to Blue Zones. These are five areas of the world where a high percentage of people live unusually long lives, often to ages 100 and more.
The Blue Zones were first identified by two Ph.D. demographic researchers, Michel Poulain and Gianni Pes. They are in Okinawa, Sardinia, Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icaria (Greece) and Loma Linda, California. That California Blue Zone group is specific to those who belong to the Seventh-day Adventist faith.
This prompted other scientists from across disciplines to study people in Blue Zones. They wanted to know what they ate, what kind of work they did, what their leisure activities were, what religions they followed and more. One of the key areas studied was exercise habits among Blue Zone people.
Researchers zeroed in on several key forms of exercise which they believe have helped Blue Zone people live long lives. They are:
It was found that people in Blue Zones walk a lot more than most other people. For example, they are more likely to walk to do their basic errands, such as shopping for groceries, going to the post office or visiting a friend. Studies have shown that walking is correlated with bolstering the hippocampus, where the brain stores memory. It may help Blue Zone people avoid dementia and senility.
Most Blue Zone dwellers tend to engage in traditional forms of dance. In more modern Blue Zone locations, the people simply enjoy dancing as an activity, such as on a date or as a way to socialize with groups. Dancing aids cognitive function because it is more than exercise. It requires mental coordination and a certain amount of thinking to learn steps and then execute them properly. It’s also a big help that dancing is joyful. That fosters the flow of endorphins in the human body.
Growing a garden is a major activity for Blue Zone dwellers. The work of tilling, weeding, planting and tending a garden involves a range of exercises that work several different muscle groups of the human body. But the psychological experience of growing beautiful green and colorful things cannot be overstated for its importance. While gardening provides a physical workout, it also calms the minds and focuses attention on Mother Nature in an intimate way. That’s good for the soul – and apparently for a long life as well.