National Geographic writer and explorer, Dan Buettner traveled the world to study the oldest living people and found that no matter where they were from, they shared many of the same healthy living habits. The Okinawans of Japan for example, who have the most people that live past 100 years old with almost no dementia, follow the same health philosophies as centenarians in Sardina, Italy and Icaria, Greece. After years studying these cultures, Dan compiled a list of the commonalities between them.
As you know, it’s never too early to start practicing healthy living habits. The earlier you start the fewer age-related illnesses you will have and the more productive you will be for life. Here then are the nine habits the people in Dan’s study used to live healthy past 100:
1. They move naturally.
Instead of going to fitness classes or running on treadmills, the longest-lived people on the planet make their natural surroundings their personal gym. They make things like daily walks, tai chi and playing soccer outdoors their exercise.
2. They have a purpose
Knowing your life’s purpose is said to add at least an extra 7 years to your life expectancy, “Purpose” can be anything from finding environmental solutions to being a loving sister to a sibling with Down Syndrome. So don’t limit your number of life’s purposes or label them with a job title. In this context, purpose just means “meaning.”
3. They relax
Stress is the leading cause of disease. It causes inflammation in the body as well as depression, a lowered immune system, and many degenerative diseases. The oldest people on the planet know how to relieve their stress. Dan recommends that here in the west, we take at least 20 minutes a day to chill and de-stress to get our heart rate and cortisol levels down.
4. They observe the 80% Rule
The Okinawans have a saying “ Harahachibu” which is a prayer said before meals to remind them to stop eating when they are 80 percent full. Stuffing your belly full of food is a huge no-no when it comes to health. Learning to listen to your body’s signals of being full is paramount.
5. They eat a plant-based diet
From pouring over 155 dietary surveys Dan found that the healthiest people eat mostly plant-based diets of fruits, vegetables especially beans. If they eat meat, it is only on occasion (like 5x per month).
6. They drink wine in moderation
Studies show that people who drink wine in moderation live longer than those who don’t. It helps even more if you share a bottle with friends. Awww…
7. They practice some type of spirituality
The type of religion or belief system has no effect, but attending faith-based services can tack on 14 years of life. Find a community that has the same belief system and connect.
8. They put family first
Centenarians are very close with their family and even make it their business to care for their parents and grandparents, commit to a life partner and keep a very close relationship with their children.
9. They belong to a tribe
The worlds longest lived people are born into social circles or societies that practice healthy lifestyles and behaviors. Find your tribe.
Build your own healthy living community
Dan’s biggest takeaway from the study is that the cultures where these centenarians live are conducive to living healthy. He’s now busy implementing what he calls the Blue Zones Project, an effort to bring the nutritional and lifestyle habits he discovered to 20+ cities throughout America.
You can be your own Dan Buettner and form a community at your place of work, church (if you attend one), apartment complex, or through a neighborhood project. Consider starting a Meetup group to reach more people. With a community or family doing it too, living a similar lifestyle is going to be much easier for you to do.
What I love about these 9 healthy behaviors is they are so simple! Follow them and you’ll have far fewer health problems, look younger, feel better and live happier as you age.
Bess is a wellness coach and educator, healing arts practitioner, and was lead Ayurvedic therapist for the Chopra Center for Well-being for 10 years. She is a dedicated wife and mother to four children. She is passionate about natural forms of healing, veganism, fitness and healthy living. She gets her "juice" from juicing, yoga, meditation, and being a mama.