Learning From Longevity Cultures: Part 1

Watching a TEDx Talk by Dan Buettner on longevity inspired me to write this.

The following three blogs are a summary of his talk with a few of my own ideas.

If you want to watch the original talk head over to YouTube and search his name otherwise stay tuned for a summary of his main findings. Scientists believe humans can live about 90-100 or so years and there are communities around the world that have a high rate of people who are living into their tenth decade. The NZ life expectancy is about 81 years which means Kiwi’s are missing out on 10-20 extra years. What would you do with 10 years?

The main thing a lot of people say when talking about living longer is that they don’t want to be in pain or incapacitated. But what if those years were full of life and joy? What else would you be able to achieve and how much more could you make an impact in other peoples lives with an extra decade or two? The majority of people in these long-lived communities, or Blue Zones (Seventh-Day Adventists in California, the residents of Sardinia, Italy and the inhabitants of the islands of Okinawa, Japan) are not only living longer but are doing so in great health. In this three-part series we will cover the nine common principles you can learn from these cultures so you can add life to your years and years to your life.

  1. They don’t exercise: no, this doesn’t mean what you might hope it does! A sedentary lifestyle is not good for you. People in these communities set up their lives so they are nudged toward movement. They live in houses with steps and don’t have conveniences like premade food. They spend a lot of time and effort physically preparing food, cutting and collecting wood, fishing or farming their own food, and have more physically involved jobs. Basically their day to day is exercise but if you work a sedentary job exercise is still the next best thing so that you can minimise the impact of sitting all day. On top of regular exercise try to integrate more movement into your day by simply parking further away and walking to work or the shops. Yep, this will mean leaving home earlier, but convenience might be slowly killing you!
  2. They live with Purpose: In our culture we tend to gear our entire working life toward retirement at which point we become sedentary, giving up mental and physical challenges and along with it, losing a sense of purpose. Sure, your work capacity will decrease as you age but make sure you retire TO something and not FROM it. In Okinawa they don’t have a word for retire, they have a word ikigai, which means, “the reason you get up on the morning.” This could be a hobby, going to night school to learn a language or how to cook, picking up an instrument, joining a club or group, writing a book, being involved in your family’s life, the list goes on.

To be continued…

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