We pick up our series on the 9 healthy habits identified by Dan Buettner as being key to longevity in his theory on living in the Blue Zones
First among the ‘power 9’ is the concept of natural movement. Buettner asserts that diet and exercise are, in fact counter productive. His research show that the “world’s longest-lived people don’t pump iron, run marathons or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it”
Life in the Blue Zone is in fact an extension of how people have lived forever. People live outside and move with nature- gardening, fishing- deeply connected to the natural world and its powerful energy. In many parts of the western world, the necessity of this kind of existence has been displaced in the last century but the automation of many of the basic physical tasks necessary to live. While innovation has been immensely rewarding in many respects, it has created stress and challenges in others, specifically on the environment and on our own human condition. Namely, our bodies have been hardwired for many many centuries for much more physical activity and exposure to the outdoors than most of us actually get.
Buettner argues that while diet & exercise may achieve aesthetic results in the short run they do not lead to the long term changes necessary for increased longevity. We need to rediscover lifestyles of regular low-intensity movement in our modern world. A way of living that not only gives our bodies the activity they need to thrive but exposure to nature in all its wonder.
Here in the jungle the day runs by the original clock. People rise early, with the sun. Awakened by the monkeys and the birds and the entire cacophony that surrounds. Work happens early and in many ways time is more productive. There is no traffic. People work close to where they live and often bike to work- little time is ‘wasted’. The day typically wraps in time for everyone to congregate and enjoy the beauty of sunset. This natural rhythm and closing ceremony unites the community in mutual appreciation (and healthy humility!) for the power and beauty of the natural world. Days end equally early without the presence of street lights or really much to do after dark.
There is an unmistakeable benefit to health and wellbeing moving naturally in concert with the cycle of the sun. Early to bed, early to rise- to being outdoors. While this kind of simple existence is not realistic in many places, there are habits to be adapted. A focus on quality sleep, walking whenever possible, being outside- gardening, shovelling snow, biking, etc. Of course, each of these activities takes time and fights against other pressing commitments. In our next blog on Buettner’s Power 9 we will look at his findings on slowing down, simplifying, making the space to be less busy and yet infinitely more productive.
Little by Little. Regret is always worse than the risk.