You may have seen a new docuseries pop up on your Netflix menu around late August called “Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones.” It's been an extremely well-received 4-part docuseries that follows Blue Zones founder and National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner as he explores five unique communities where people live extraordinarily long and vibrant lives. These communities are known as Blue Zones and they are regions around the world where people tend to live longer and healthier lives than the global average.
The Origin of Blue Zones
Blue Zones are regions around the world where people tend to live longer and healthier lives than the global average. Coined by National Geographic fellow and author Dan Buettner, the term "Blue Zones" originated from the blue circles he used to mark these extraordinary longevity hotspots on the map, specific regions with unusually high concentrations of centenarians (individuals who reach 100 years or more). The original Blue Zones include Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya Peninsula (Costa Rica), Ikaria (Greece), and Loma Linda (California, USA). These areas share a remarkable characteristic: a disproportionate number of people living well into their 90s and 100s.
The Power 9 Principles
To unravel the secrets of Blue Zones, Buettner and his team worked with experts to identify and breakdown the similarities in lifestyle and behavior. This resulted in the identification of the "Power 9" principles – a set of guidelines that are believed to contribute significantly to the longevity and well-being of the Blue Zone residents.
Blue Zone inhabitants engage in regular, low-intensity physical activity as part of their daily routines, such as walking, gardening, and manual labor.
Having a sense of purpose in life is a common thread among Blue Zone communities. Whether it's through family, work, or community involvement, a clear sense of purpose contributes to mental and emotional well-being.
Stress management is crucial. Taking time to unwind, relax, and alleviate stress through activities like prayer, napping, or enjoying a meal with loved ones is a common practice in Blue Zones.
Blue Zone residents follow the "Hara Hachi Bu" principle, which encourages them to eat until they are 80% full. This mindful eating practice prevents overeating and promotes better digestion.
A predominantly plant-based diet is a staple in Blue Zones, with an emphasis on beans, nuts, and locally grown fruits and vegetables. Meat is consumed sparingly.
Wine at 5:
Moderate and regular alcohol consumption, often in the form of red wine, is a common practice in Blue Zones. It is believed to have cardiovascular benefits.
Strong social connections and a sense of belonging are vital for well-being. Blue Zone communities prioritize family, maintain strong social networks, and foster a sense of community.
Loved Ones First:
Family comes first in Blue Zones. Centenarians often live with or near their families, emphasizing the importance of familial bonds.
Surrounding oneself with like-minded individuals who support positive behaviors and values is a recurring theme. Social circles play a crucial role in shaping habits.
The exploration of Blue Zones and the unveiling of the Power 9 principles offer valuable insights into the art of living a longer, healthier life. While these principles may not guarantee immortality, incorporating elements of the Blue Zone lifestyle into our own lives can undoubtedly contribute to improved well-being and longevity. As we navigate the complexities of modern life, the wisdom obtained from these extraordinary communities serves as a guide for a healthier and more fulfilling existence.
Blue Zones Community Projects and Jacksonville's Journey
The influence of Blue Zones extends beyond the study of long-lived populations, reaching into community projects that aim to transform the way people live, work, and interact. Blue Zones initiatives have been implemented in various cities across the country, encouraging residents to adopt healthier habits and embrace the Power 9 principles.
Notably, our own city, Jacksonville, is taking strides towards becoming a certified Blue Zones Community. Inspired by the success stories of longevity hotspots, Jacksonville has embarked on a journey to integrate the Power 9 principles into the fabric of everyday life. This community-wide effort involves collaboration between local government, businesses, schools, restaurants, and citizens, all working together to create an environment that supports well-being. From redesigning public spaces to promote physical activity to fostering healthier food options in schools and workplaces, Jacksonville is on a path to becoming a living testament to the transformative potential of the Blue Zones principles. As this initiative gains momentum, it exemplifies how the lessons learned from the original Blue Zones can be adapted and applied to diverse communities, offering a blueprint for a healthier and more vibrant future. Blue Zones Project Jacksonville has partnered with local organizations including Baptist Health, Brooks Rehabilitation, City of Jacksonville, Community First Credit Union, Florida Blue, The Jaguars Foundation, Jacksonville University, Jessie Ball DuPont Fund, Mayo Clinic, UF Health, and United Way. To learn more about The Blue Zones Project Jacksonville visit the website where you can also find out how to get involved, how to volunteer, and how to download the Blue Zones Challenge App.