The blue zones: 9 lessons for living longer from the people who’ve lived the longest is one of the first books that I read about longevity. I think it was the title that captured me. I’m a really big fan of “only take advice from those who’ve already accomplished what they’re giving advice on” so I knew straight away that this book contained some golden nuggets!
What is the book about?
The book is based on the travels of the author, Dan Buettner, to five regions of the world that have an unusually high number of centenarians (people over the age of 100). He refers to these areas as The Blue Zones. Visiting each of those blue zones he takes us on a journey to discover how and why those people are able to live so long, and in most cases, disease-free. He looks into every aspect of their life, where they live, who they live with, what they eat, if they exercise, if they have any particular religious/spiritual beliefs and lots, lots more. In the last chapter, he evaluates al the information that he found and condenses it down to just 9 principles. These 9 principles he believes, are the keys to long-term health and longevity.
Who is this book for?
Anyone who is interested in finding out what it takes to be healthy and stay healthy for a whole century, literally!
The golden nuggets of this book
- Move naturally – Exercise. Must be pretty important to make it to the top of the list, you think. You are absolutely right! But not the type of exercise you’d think. The centenarians haven’t done a single workout in their life yet they exercise every single day. Their whole day involves movement, natural movement. Walking up and down the town, gardening, raising animals, chopping wood, all the daily necessities of life basically. Research has shown that sustained low intensity exercise that’s easy on the knees and hips contributes to cellular health and in turn, longevity.
- Reduce caloric intake by 20% – Trial after trial has shown that if you reduce the caloric intake of an animal by 20%, the animal lives 20% longer. This has become common knowledge within the scientific community as the experiment has been conducted countless of times on countless of animals, resulting in the same consistent, significant findings. (Food for thought: a fast metabolism might be a good idea for your waistline, while a slightly slower metabolism may be good for sticking around longer).
- Eat whole, unprocessed foods and avoid meat: Eating a diet mainly consisting of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and seeds is associated with increased health benefits. As for meat, only 1 blue zone consisted of vegetarians. The rest all ate meat, but only once a month!
- Drink red wine: Interestingly, wine was consumed by most centenarians in most of the blue zones. Studies have shown than 1 glass of red wine a day is associated with many health benefits. Also, having a glass of wine with or after dinner makes it an “event” making it more likely that you will eat slowly and engage in conversation with the people around you, thus making you happier. Win win!
- Living with purpose: One trait common to all blue zones is that each centenarian had a keen sense of purpose and direction. Many studies have shown that when people retire from work, in the years that follow their health gradually begins to deteriorate. Many people cannot wait to retire, they fantasise about all the free time that they’ll have to what all the things they’ve always wanted to do but after those first few months many people begin to lose that sense of purpose and direction. They wake up with no aim for the day, just living for the sake of living. Job or no job, the people who live longest are the ones that wake up on purpose and live with purpose. Every. Single. Day.
- No Stress: People who make it to 100 seem to exude a sense of sublime serenity. They rest frequently, socialise regularly and just don’t sweat the small stuff. They get on with their day in a calm and diligent way. In the modern world, there seems to be so many things to stress and worry about, and it is so difficult to get out of that vicious cycle of stress and anxiety. Some effort to downshift however, will be generously rewarded. Science has only recently began to see the link between stress and almost every known disease. Relax, unwind, breathe.
- Belonging: No centenarian was lonely. Everyone lived with their family and had friends living nearby. Social connection and a sense of belonging is so important. Surround yourself with kind and loving people, make an effort to regularly visit family and friends or join a community. Pick a hobby and join or create a community based on that. You’ll be amazed by the amazing energy that is created when people with similar interests come together!
- Make family a priority: The people that lived longest, all put their family first. The house, family and children were the core around which they based their lives. Spend time with your family, make an effort and work on those vital relationships. They give you life, quite literally! Whenever I think about family I always think about my closest friends too because for me, and for many others too family isn’t just about blood.
- Find your tribe: Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, surround ourself with those who share the same values/principles as you. This just brings everything together. It’s no fun living a healthy life alone, because fun is an integral part of living a healthier/longer life. Find your people. People to hike with, people to meditate with, people to have a nice glass of wine while laughing your guts out with. Find them and treasure them!
My thoughts on the book
There’s so much that I love about this book! It’s just so honest and straightforward. In times when there’s just so much information about health out there this book is a like a little oasis. Many other books tell us what we should and should’t do to he healthy but not many actually follow up on how those behaviours affect us in the long run. For example, my health experts prescribe high intensity workouts and training while actually hardcore physical training is not associated with longevity. Quite the opposite. Too much exercise is actually found to be harmful for the body long-term. Every suggestion that the author makes is based on the experience of those centenarians and backed up with the latest scientific knowledge. It is both touching and reassuring, and factual and educational. The principles are very down to Earth, practical and almost common sense. And that’s how it should be!
If you’d like to purchase this book please click on the amazon logo below to be redirected to the amazon website.