Blue Zones are regions of the world where people commonly live active lives past the age of 100 years. Recently learning about these communities my attention was caught by two of the nine habits that contribute to their health & longevity. You may anticipate it was their predominantly plant-based diet I liked, but it was actually their approach to movement and retirement.
Movement - natural and regular
Rather than spending most of their waking hours being sedentary then blocking specific time for planned exercise, people in these Blue Zone communities tend to live in environments that ‘nudge them into regular activity’. The have gardens, cook from scratch, and enjoy frequent social interactions.
Here are some suggestions on how you can include more natural movement in your day:
- tend your floors with a push vacuum vs. robot vacuum
- clear yard leaves with a rake vs. leaf blower (your neighbours will also appreciate the quiet!)
- plant & tend a garden; in your own yard or at a community garden
- always choose the stairs
- walk or bike rather than drive; for work, school, errands, social gatherings, etc.
- mix your wet & dry baking ingredients by hand, rather than using an electric mixer
- make bread by hand; mixing & kneading
- help your neighbours
- pick up trash from the sidewalk and trails you are walking along
- dance when you hear a song you like!
Retirement - reframe its meaning
Working in healthcare in the Southern Georgian Bay region, many of my patients are either retirees or those on the brink of retirement, who have moved to the area for the active lifestyle. I have frequently witnessed this transition not go as smoothly as most would expect, as the novelty of not working wears off over those first several months and the question of ‘Who am I now that I’m not a teacher / lawyer / plumber / doctor / etc.’ begins to creep in. Some find fulfilment in volunteering in the community, others can’t stand the boredom and find a part-time job, and many actually experience depression.
Did you know that in Okinawa, Japan, there is no word for retirement? There they find what they enjoy, what gives them a sense of purpose, and engage in that activity through their life. As it is something that fulfills them there is no reason to stop, hence no retirement and no questioning their role or value in their community. This ‘reason for being’ is called ikigai,
How do you find your ikigai? A helpful start is watching Tim Tamashiro’s TEDx talk.
To improve your longevity, consider how you can incorporate more natural movement into your day (you’ll probably see housework in a whole new light!) and ask yourself “What is my ikigai?”.