David @iRetiredYoung | November 17, 2023

Aging IQ Blog is a news aggregate designed to create a location for all of your mental, physical and financial news. From life style tips, to cutting edge research. The below article was originally posted on their website by the author above.

I’ve just watched the documentary series, Live to 100 – Secrets of the Blue Zones, in which Dan Buettner scours the world for places where people live much longer than average. He comes up with a diverse list:

  1. Okinawa, Japan
  2. Sardinia, Italy
  3. Ikaria, Greece
  4. Nicoya, Costa Rica
  5. Loma Linda, California

Having found the locations, the next step is to look for the reasons why people from these places live much longer than the average person in other locations. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he discovers some common denominators which he calls Blue Zones Power 9: Lifestyle Habits of the World’s Healthiest, Longest-Lived People.

Healthy and long is exactly what I want my early retirement life to be, so the Blue Zones Power 9 sounds interesting. In addition, the people in the Blue Zones were active. Am I doing the right things to achieve that healthy, long and active retirement or should I consider making some changes? And does the Power 9 lifestyle sound like a life I’d like to lead – would it be enjoyable?

So, what are the Blue Zones Power 9: Lifestyle Habits of the World’s Healthiest, Longest-Lived People?

  1. MOVE NATURALLY: This is about living in environments that constantly nudge us into moving without thinking about it, things like gardening, housework etc without using effort saving gadgets (it’s not about joining the gym or running marathons).
  2. PURPOSE: The thing that makes us excited to wake up in the morning.
  3. DOWNSHIFT: Living with less stress. People in the Blue Zones have routines that shed stress.
  4. 80% RULE: Don’t overeat, in fact, stop when 80% full to help maintain a healthy weight.
  5. PLANT SLANT: In the Blue Zones, meat is eaten on average only 5 times a month (and the portions are 80-110 grams or 3-4 ounces). Instead, it’s lots of beans, lentils, and vegetables.
  6. WINE @5: 1-2 glasses a day with friends and/or food. But no saving it up for a big session.
  7. BELONG: Almost all the centenarians interviewed in the Blue Zones belonged to a faith based community.
  8. LOVED ONES FIRST: Committing to a life partner and keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home.
  9. RIGHT TRIBE: Research has shown that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. Surround ourselves with a social network that provide positive behavioural influences.

My first thoughts as I watched the series was that it seemed pretty obvious. Eat well, exercise/be active and have something that makes you excited to wake up for – tick these boxes and you’ll live longer than people who don’t do these things. But, as the list above shows, there’s more to it than that. I must admit that I wouldn’t have come up with nine different things, so perhaps it wasn’t as obvious as I first thought. There’s more to it than just eating well, exercising, and looking forward to getting up in the morning.

Despite there being more categories than I first imagined, I figured I’d score well with my lifestyle habits. To prove it, I had a go at scoring myself against the 9 lifestyle habits:

  1. MOVE NATURALLY: 6.5 out of 10. I’m giving this score because of the running, cycling, and skiing that I do, but I suspect I’m too sedentary outside of this in the moving naturally category.
  2. PURPOSE: 8 out of 10. Perhaps I’ve scored this a little optimistically, but I find a variety of mini purposes and I’m always looking forward to the day ahead.
  3. DOWNSHIFT: 10 out of 10. Exercise is my main routine to shed what little stress I might have.
  4. 80% RULE: 4 out of 10. Room for improvement here. I don’t know that I’ve ever stopped eating at 80%, too often it’s at 110%.
  5. PLANT SLANT: 8.5 out of 10. I eat entirely plant based, but I do want to increase my wholegrain and fruit intake.
  6. WINE @5: 0 out of 10. I haven’t drunk alcohol for the last four years, but if there is a target to miss, I’m thinking this is the best one to fail on.
  7. BELONG: 0 out of 10. I’m not religious so don’t belong to a faith based community.
  8. LOVED ONES FIRST: 5 out of 10. A significant reduction because I live in a different country to my kids, father, and sisters.
  9. RIGHT TRIBE: 8 out of 10. I mostly hang around with healthy and happy people.

I score 45 out of 90, so just 50% which doesn’t seem so good. Before watching the Blue Zones documentary, I’d have guessed my lifestyle habits score for living healthy and long would have been in the 80-90% plus range.

I’m not going to beat myself up, but it is a reminder that it can be good to take a pause and review if there are parts of my life that I might want to tweak to further increase my health, my life expectancy and also my happiness. The Blue Zones model can be a useful tool to help me do that.

I like the idea of stopping to check whether we’re on the best track – it’s so easy to simply keep doing the same things, either because:

  • of apathy. It feels simplest to do tomorrow, next week or next year the same as we did yesterday, last week or last year.
  • we just don’t think about it. It doesn’t cross our mind to consider something different.
  • we think we’re too busy to set a little time aside to ask if there are alternatives that are worth considering.

I’ve used (perhaps unknowingly) all those reasons at some point, and I don’t think they’re good reasons.

I’ve now been retired for seven years, and it’s great. On that basis, the simplest thing is to continue without considering any changes – keep doing the same things as I’m doing now. However, that might mean missing out on something even better. In fact, I already suspect there are a couple of things I’m doing now, simply because that’s what I did last year and the year before, and watching the Blue Zones documentary has also made me wonder if there are a couple of gaps that I could fill and would make my life even better. I haven’t yet figured out the answers, but stopping and making time to think about them is a good way to ensure I get the most out of my early retired life.

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