The American magazine National Geographic provided one of its writers, Dan Buettner, with the opportunity to study regions where there are significant numbers of people living into their 90s and 100s. Buettner called these regions ‘Blue Zones’, and they include communities in Sardinia, Okinawa, California, Greece and Costa Rica. He developed a range of principles based on his observation of lifestyle patterns.
Buettner now offers advice on diet, exercise, relationships and spirituality, and encourages gradual long-term changes. His merchandise focuses on happiness, thriving and vitality rather than simple diet and exercise advice. He challenges people to create their own Blue Zones in their city and neighbourhood.
It would be too complex to conduct a controlled scientific study that would measure the wide variety of biological, environmental and social factors determining longevity. Nevertheless, Buettner has applied his principles to a whole system intervention in three cities in the United States. In so doing, he questions whether the individual is an adequate subject for health promotion. Rather, he believes in the power of collective effort.
For example, the project in Albert Lea, Minnesota implemented a range of environmental changes to get people out walking, both for leisure and to work. It shifted attention to healthy foods in schools, restaurants, supermarkets and home. It created social circles that drew people together to focus on their collective pursuit. The project claims to have raised life-expectancy measures by an average 3.1 years.
Unlike the predominant diet and exercise industry, Buettner has recognised the deeper nature of personhood. Clearly inspired by the social and religious characteristics of those elderly people he interviewed in his Blue Zones, he promotes a concept of human health and wellbeing that emerges from social habits.
Read more about Blue Zones in Dan’s best selling books: