Want to live to 100? You need to know about the Blue Zones

What lessons can we learn from the world’s longest-lived and healthiest cultures?

These days we’re given so much information about health and happiness; it can be difficult to know whose advice to follow.

Who would have thought, however, that it might be certain parts of the world that hold the key to longevity?

These geographic areas, known as ‘Blue Zones’, appear to contain the secret to a long and happy life.

As Social Scientist Dr Ali Walker explains, in these areas people enjoy exceptionally long lives and better health than those of us elsewhere on the planet.

Discovering the Blue Zones

“The Blue Zones were originally discovered through demographic research by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology,” Dr Walker explains.

“The researchers identified a province of Sardinia as having the highest concentration of males over 100-years-old.

“Journalist and researcher Dan Buettner worked with the researchers to broaden the concept, which first appeared in a 2005 National Geographic Magazine cover story ‘The Secrets of a Long Life’.”

The five blue zones were identified and further discussed by Buettner in the book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.

They are:

  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Sardinia, Italy
  • Nicoya, Costa Rica
  • Icaria, Greece
  • Seventh-Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, United States

According to Dan Buettner’s research, people who live in these areas have longer than average life spans, suffer less diseases, and enjoy good health for longer.

blue zone sardinia
Sardinia, Italy

What are the common lifestyle features of people in the Blue Zones?

Dr Walker says that while the Blue Zones may be spread across the planet, each shares certain healthy habits, many of which we can incorporate into our daily lives.

While their lifestyles may differ slightly, people in the Blue Zones tend to eat a mostly plant-based diet, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, drink moderate amounts of alcohol (mostly red wine), get enough sleep and have good spiritual, family and social networks.

“It’s not just longevity, it’s that these people are healthier and happier in their lives,” she says.

“There’s constant, moderate exercise – and by that I mean daily! If you look at somewhere like Sardinia, to get to the town, there’s a lot of steps going up and down, so it’s incidental exercise.

“What they have to do each day to just get by involves exercise, compared to say getting in your car and driving to the office.”

People in the Blue Zones tend to eat a mostly plant-based diet, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, drink moderate amounts of alcohol (mostly red wine), get enough sleep and have good spiritual, family and social networks.

How does Australia stack up?

According to Australia’s 2006 National Health Survey there were interesting results on the country’s healthiest ‘zones’.

It found Naracoorte in South Australia was the worst place for people taking part in exercise, compared to Double Bay in New South Wales which was the best.

When it came to alcohol consumption, those in Byron Bay in New South Wales (NSW) were the worst offenders, while the best were also in NSW, but in Cabramatta.

And for obesity? Adults in Tamworth in NSW came in as those most at risk, while those in Cottesloe in the country’s most western state, were the trimmest.

Catch up on the full episode of The House of Wellness TV show to see all the details on this story from Zoe, Ed, and the team, as well as a whole lot more.

Written by Liz McGrath.

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