Early last year, I was introduced to a man named Dan Buettner. Dan works with National Geographic as an explorer, author, researcher and educator and is the founder of the ‘Blue Zones‘.

The Blue Zones are 5 specific areas of the world where people commonly live the longest (past the age of 100 years old) – Okinawa Japan, Sardinia Italy, Nicoya Pennisula Costa Rica, Ikaria Greece and the Seventh-Day Adventist in California.


I became fascinated/ obsessed with Dan’s work. I studied his website, read all of his books and watched every speaking gig I could find on YouTube. Probably the biggest takeaway that I took from Dan’s research was what’s know as the “Power 9” which as studies prove are 9 simple things that we can all do to increase our life expectancy and as a result, help us live a longer, happier life. Most of us have the opportunity to make it well into our early 90’s and largely without chronic disease or illness with a few simple tweaks to our daily lives –

1. MOVE NATURALLY

Believe it or not, the world’s longest-lived people didn’t have gym memberships or run 10km a week. Instead they chose to live in environments that constantly nudged them into moving without thinking about it. They grew veggie gardens and didn’t rely on any of the technology that we have today to make our house or yard work more convenient. (eg. they pushed a lawn mower instead of using a ride on mower, they kneaded their dough instead of using a Thermomix and they got up from the couch to change channels on the TV!)

2. PURPOSE

Knowing your purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy. Every region had their own unique name for this, however each name translates to “why I wake up in the morning?”

3. DOWN SHIFT

Everyone experiences stress and stress leads to chronic inflammation which is associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t, were routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments to breathe each day, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour (ps. I’m moving to Sardinia!)

4. 80% RULE

Okinawans say a mantra before every meal which reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening.

5. PLANT SLANT

Beans (fava, black, soy, lentils etc.) make up the majority of most centenarians diets. Meat – mostly pork – is eaten on average only five times per month and servings are about the size of a deck of cards.

6. WINE AT FIVE

People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day with friends and/or with food. And no, this doesn’t mean saving each glass throughout the week and having 14 drinks on a Saturday Night.

7. BELONG

All but five of the 263 centenarians interviewed belonged to some faith-based community. Research shows that attending some sort of community 4x per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.

8. LOVED ONES FIRST

Families came first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home. They commit to one life partner (which can add up to 3yrs life expectancy) and invest in their children with time and love (they’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes!)

9. RIGHT TRIBE

The world’s longest lived people chose (or were born into) social circles that supported healthy behaviours. Okiniwans created groups of 5 friends that committed to each other for life. Research shows that smoking, obesity, happiness and even loneliness are contagious.

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