9 Things The Longest-Living People in the World Have in Common

There are a few places in the world—specifically Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Icaria, Greece—where living to be over 100 isn’t uncommon at all. In these regions, known as Blue Zones, the life expectancy isn’t just higher; centenarians are generally also healthy, their minds and bodies still working well.

National Geographic journalist Dan Buettner spent years studying each culture, pinpointing the exact reasons why they thrived before publishing his findings in the best selling book, TheBlue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Buettner found that despite the geographical differences, people living in the Blue Zones all had nine key lifestyle habits in common, which he named the “Power9.”  

1. Move naturally

Buettner found that in all the Blue Zones communities, movement was a regular part of daily life for the residents. Also Richard Honaker, MD, who works with Your Doctors Online, says, “The more exercise you can fit into your day, the better. Even walking is good for your health.” 

2. Have a larger purpose

You have to have a reason to get out of bed every morning. Something that pushes and motivates you. For without purpose it is next to impossible to maintain the healthy behaviors and lifestyle that is conducive to a long and healthy life.

Whether your goal is to beat cardiovascular disease or cancer, or even to live a long and healthy life, study after study has found an association of purpose in life with all kinds of better health outcomes—an effect that stands regardless of age, sex, education or race.

3. Manage your stress

 Chronic stress is terrible for your health, which is why stress management is one of the pillars for living a long, healthy life.

During his time in China, he saw that simple lifestyle habits such as eating nourishing foods, being physically active, getting good sleep, and socializing with family and neighbors all helped negate the stress the townspeople experienced, showing that the pillars are intertwined and connected to each other.

 4. Eat until you are 80 percent full

Buettner found that in Blue Zones people stop eating when they are mostly full, not when they finished everything on their plate or were too stuffed to eat another bite. He also observed that the biggest meal of the day occurred in late afternoon or early evening, not right close to bedtime. Scientific research has shown that eating late at night is linked to unhealthy weight gain, which isn’t exactly great for lifespan.

5. Stick to a plant-forward diet

People in Blue Zones tend to eat a diet that’s primarily plant-based, consuming meat only a few times a month on special occasions. In China’s longevity village, they picked their own produce and ate it the same day. And since they were essentially cut off from the rest of the world, they didn’t have any access to sugar or processed foods. They also ate fish about twice a week, which of course brings to mind the Mediterranean diet, a long-beloved eating plan by doctors and dietitians.

6. Moderate alcohol consumption

Across Blue Zones, Buettner observed that alcohol was consumed, but moderately, at one to two glasses a day, with friends or food. This makes sense, as light to moderate drinking (particularly of wine) has been associated with a longer lifespan. The key, of course, is to be mindful.

7. Find your community

A sense of family and community is important in all Blue Zones communities, which Dr. Honaker says has been directly linked to health. “Many studies have shown lower rates of hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and possibly even cancer for people with lots of friends and loving relationships in their lives,” he says.

8. Stay close with family

Similarly, in Blue Zones, families tend to be close, both geographically and emotionally. Younger generations value and help care for older ones. This also may be related to a sense of belonging.

9. Maintain a fulfilling social life 

People in Blue Zones areas not only have supportive families and communities, they actively participate in them. For some, faith may be the cornerstone of their social life, which can provide feelings of comfort and camaraderie through a shared beliefs system. A study published in 2016 emphasizes the importance of even casual social relationships when it comes to longevity.