3 Unexpected Habits Of People Who Live Longer, From The Founder Of Blue Zones
As a National Geographic Fellow, multiple New York Times bestselling author, and owner of three Guinness World Records for biking, Dan Buettner knows a thing or two about adventure. In fact, he's explored around the globe and discovered the five places in the world—dubbed "Blue Zones"—where people live the longest and are the healthiest.
Buettner sat down with me on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast to discuss his adventures and what he learned from "sitting on a stool in old ladies' kitchens in Sardinian peasant villages." In addition to learning what people in Blue Zones eat for longevity, he discovered how these people live happier lives, as well as how emotional connections come into play in terms of overall health.
Below are the three common habits of people who live in the Blue Zones, according to Buettner's careful observations. You may be surprised to find that we're doing quite the opposite here in the U.S.
They don't exercise.
Contrary to what you might think, in the Blue Zones, people don't work out. Now, that's not to say they aren’t active—Buettner tells me that people in Blue Zones are actually so active that they don't even need to take time out of their day for a HIIT or yoga session.
"People live in places where every time they go to work, or to a friend's house, or out to eat, the occasion's a walk," he says.
What's more, people in Blue Zones are getting their heart rates up just by doing mundane activities around the household. "They don't have buttons to push for yard work, and housework, and kitchen work. They're kneading dough by hand for bread or grinding corn," Buettner explains. So, they're constantly active—enough to where it extends their life span.
They eat carbs—a lot of carbs.
And when it comes to what they eat, people in Blue Zones are eating plant-based, with 90% to 100% of their diets being carbs, according to Buettner.
People in the Blue Zones have eaten what we've deemed "complex carbs" for generations upon generations. Most of what they eat is a complex carbohydrate, specifically either a grain, bean, or tuber (like sweet potato).
And they don't demonize carbs as we do here in the U.S. Buettner explains, "Carbs is the worst word in the American language because both lollipops and lentils are carbohydrates. And we get confused."
So, a Blue Zone diet is one that's primarily plant-based and carb-heavy. If you're following a low-carb eating plan and want to dabble in a longevity diet, you may want to be like the Blue Zones and add a sweet potato or two to your plate.
They do happy hour.
The final (and arguably, the most important, says Buettner) Blue Zone habit is how they spend time with friends—good friends. Buettner notes how having a tight-knit, uplifting group of friends is crucial for longevity.
"Nobody thinks of longevity as adding friends," he says. "But really putting the effort into creating that group of four or five people who really nourish you is arguably the most powerful thing you can do to add years to your life."
Alternatively, Buettner says that bad friends can do quite the opposite—he explains that friends who drag you down and encourage you to engage in unhealthy behaviors can actually shorten your life span. It makes sense, as if you're eating unhealthy food and taking dangerous risks with alcohol or drugs, you could perhaps shave off some years of your life.
For how this translates for us in the U.S., you may want to take your friends out to dinner more often or tag along to happy hour with your co-workers. Positive social interaction, according to Buettner, is the key to a longer life.
"When it comes to longevity, there's no short-term fix. And friends tend to be long-term adventures, he adds. Whether those adventures are healthy or unhealthy—well, it's up to you and your crew.
So, that's what people in the Blue Zones do to make it past 100 years old. No elixirs, pills, or workout regimens here. Their "fountain of youth" is really quite simple—staying active; eating whole, plant-based carbs; and socializing with friends can really add years to your life. Time to walk over to your favorite plant-based restaurant with a group of buddies!