(BPT) - Have you heard about the blue zones? These are the six places around the world — Singapore; Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; and the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica — where people live the longest. National Geographic Explorer and New York Times best-selling author Dan Buettner has spent more than 20 years studying these regions of the world to figure out just how the people there are living healthily well into their 90s and even 100s.
In his books, Buettner reveals the secrets of these centenarians, among them, the Power 9 — guiding lifestyle principles that turn out to be the keys to longevity. Here are some of the life lessons Buettner has unveiled about the blue zones:
Lesson 1: Move Naturally
While each New Year sees a spike in gym membership enrollment, pumping iron or racing on a treadmill aren’t the only ways to live healthier. In all five blue zones, people move all day long, not just for 30 minutes at the gym. That can be done by walking through the neighborhood, working in your garden, or even getting up and down from sitting on the floor, as centenarians in Okinawa do regularly.
Lesson 2: Eat Your Beans
All five blue zones follow a plant-slant diet, and beans — black, fava, soy and garbanzo — make up a good portion of that diet. Buettner’s best-selling cookbooks, The Blue Zones Kitchen and The Blue Zones American Kitchen, offer more than 40 recipes that incorporate beans into your meal rotation.
Lesson 3: Stay Connected
One of the most foundational elements of the blue zones is putting loved ones first. In Okinawa, centenarians call their social circles moais. These are groups of friends committed to each other for life. In Nicoya, family comes first, and generations are found together at the dinner table regularly.
Lesson 4: Reduce Your Stress
No place in the world — even the blue zones — is immune to stress, which can lead to chronic inflammation and age-related disease. But the longest-lived people in the blue zones find regular ways to reduce that stress: In Loma Linda, the Adventist community turns to prayer and observes the Saturday Sabbath. In Ikaria, they take daily naps. And in Sardinia, they practice another Power 9 principle, Wine@5, with regular happy hours.
Lesson 5: Find Your Purpose
Buettner says the most common factor across each of the blue zones is having purpose. Each centenarian he interviewed over the course of two decades had a reason to wake up in the morning: Nicoyans call it plan de vida. That sense of meaning can add up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
Find more tips, tricks and recipes from the blue zones in Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer, The Blue Zones Kitchen and The Blue Zones American Kitchen. Or make a New Year’s resolution to blue zone your life with the help of The Blue Zones Challenge.