3 Underrated Daily Habits To Live 10 Years Longer, From A Longevity Expert
Every time we catch up with longevity expert Dan Buettner, founder of the Blue Zones and New York Times bestselling author of The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer: Lessons From the Healthiest Places on Earth, we somehow walk away with even more gems to add to our treasure trove of longevity tips.
Today's conversation is no different: During Buettner's sixth (yes, sixth!) appearance on the mindbodygreen podcast, he shares the underrated, unconscious habits that help Blue Zones individuals live exceptionally long lives.
After all, "Most of longevity, physical agility, and ongoing health is a result of unconscious behavior, not conscious behavior," he shares. Find some of those everyday habits below.
Quality connections are crucial for longevity, but Buettner takes it a step further: In the Blue Zones, "donating one's time" is key for a longer life, he says. Research backs up the claim, as a study on elderly individuals found that those who provided emotional support to others ended up living longer lives1; and acts of kindness (dubbed the "Mother Teresa effect2" by scientists) can actually boost your antiviral response.
However, in the Blue Zones, volunteering "doesn't happen as prescriptively as it might happen in America," Buettner explains. Meaning, people don't consciously choose to volunteer on a given day—they just naturally help others for the greater good of their community.
"So much of daily life involves putting your strengths to work for the benefit of your family or your community in Blue Zones," Buettner adds. For example, "during the harvest, everybody will pitch in to these big festivals. Everybody pitches in and makes it happen… [There's] this unconscious volunteering that just comes with living in a Blue Zone."
Sitting on the floor
Yes, really. "One of the biggest killers of older people is falls," Buettner declares. Allow us to remind you of the following stats: If you're over 65, there's a one in four chance that you'll fall3, and if you do, studies show your chances of falling again double. If you fall and break your hip4, there is a 30 to 40% chance5 that you will die within a year (not necessarily from the fall itself but perhaps from other complications related to the accident).
When you sit on the floor, however, you constantly train your lower body strength and balance—especially if you're getting up and down off the floor multiple times a day.
"Lo and behold, in Okinawa, [they have] far fewer falls," says Buettner. "In the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, they're sitting on furniture, but they're also in their gardens. When they're in their gardens, they're on their knees, they're bending over, [they're using] the same sort of muscles that we never use when we're sitting in our offices, watching TV, and so on."
Of course, sitting on the floor isn't the end-all-be-all for longevity; but Buettner counts it as one of those "counterintuitive" practices that helps these people live much longer, healthier lives. "[They] add up to a much bigger piece of the longevity pie than we think," he adds.
OK, people don't exactly play pickleball in the Blue Zones. But according to Buettner, the social sport is "the bomb" for longevity. He references a Mayo Clinic study6 that found those with active lifestyles lived longer lives than sedentary folks (not surprising), but of those active individuals, those who played racket sports lived longer than cyclists, swimmers, and runners.
"I take a little liberty with this," Buettner admits, since pickleball is technically a paddle sport, but it involves pretty similar movements and strategies.
Plus, it's a social game, and we likely don't have to remind you how important social connections are for longevity. "You can't help but make friends," Buettner adds. "Plus, you're getting a range of low-to-medium intensity physical activity, you get your heart rate going, and an hour later you don't realize you just had a really good workout."
If you want to live like the people in Blue Zones, you'll want to incorporate daily healthy habits that just feel like second nature. By making healthiest behaviors the easiest behaviors, you're much more likely to keep up with a healthy lifestyle. What other tweaks should you make, you might ask? Here, find Buettner's simple tips to turn your space into a personal Blue Zone.