We live in a diverse world. But despite all our differences, most of us can agree on one thing – we want to live a long and healthy life.
But why is it that certain populations seem to have happier, healthier, older populations than others? And what can we learn from those cultures to help increase our own chances of living to see our hundredth birthday?
The article below details 11 healthy habits from populations around the world that are known for their longevity. Keep reading if you want to learn from them and get ready to improve your life.
1. Eating Plants
We know that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but what if it could also add years to your life? That’s right! Eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts is part of a well-balanced diet that has helped many communities reach their longevity potential.
A diet rich in whole foods provides essential nutrients for energy and bodily health. It also helps people avoid added sugars and fats that are found in a typical diet.
The term “blue zones” was created to describe areas of the world where people live longer. And one thing we know about blue zones is that they eat plenty of plants, nuts, and other whole foods.
2. Finding a Social Circle
Okinawa Japan has one of the largest populations of centenarians (people over one hundred years old) in the world. There are lots of healthy habits behind this phenomenon but one of them is their close-knit social circles, called “moai” pods. These pods are made up of five close friends that spend time together and offer social support.
A sense of belonging can protect a person’s sense of wellbeing while reducing stress. Together this can lengthen one’s life by limiting the physical and psychological impacts of social isolation.
Beyond smaller social circles, Okinawans and other long-living populations have larger groups centered around faith or religion. Regularly attending faith services and being a part of a faith-based community has been shown to increase overall life expectancy.
3. Staying Active
Physical activity has a number of physical, emotional, and psychological benefits. But it is also a cornerstone of healthy living for the longest living communities in the world. Not all of them are marathon runners or all-star basketball players, but they make movement part of their everyday life.
Regular, moderate activity can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol while boosting strength, balance, and immunity. Centenarians in the region of Sardinia stay active by continuing to work on farms. The daily labor over years and years pays off!
4. Having a Purpose
This healthy habit is a bit less concrete. However, research shows that people who find meaning and purpose in their lives tend to live longer. For some purpose may come in the form of work and for others, it might be raising a family.
Having a purpose has been linked with lower rates of cardiovascular disease and overall stress. Purpose comes in many forms and some of the oldest living populations find purpose in their hobbies. Martial arts, dancing, spending time in nature – all of these activities are responsible for providing purpose and meaning.
5. Prioritizing Sleep
Sleeping six or more hours each night may add years to your life. Sleep is the time that your body and brain recover which is essential for healthy living.
As we age, our sleep cycles may become irregular, but it’s important to try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule. People who make sleep a top priority often live longer and stronger than those that don’t
6. Eating Slowly
We already know that eating a plant-based diet can increase longevity, but what about the way we eat? Returning back to the blue zone of Okinawa there is an expression for eating – “Hara hachi bu.” This phrase is a reminder to eat until you are about 80% full. This allows time for your stomach to communicate with your brain that you are full and done eating.
The dramatic rise in obesity is partially due to portion sizes and speed at which food is consumed. The longest living people tend to take their time with meals, enjoying them slowly and not to excess.
7. Stress Less
This healthy habit may be easier said than done, but it’s important regardless. Chronic stress can be detrimental to our health. Finding healthy coping behaviors can help reduce that feeling of anxiety or stress in your life.
You can reduce your stress using exercise, sleep, meditation, or gratitude practices. The longest living people tend to have rituals or habits in their lives that prevent stress from building up or sticking around for too long.
8. Connecting With Family
Close family ties and meaningful family relationships may also lengthen your life. Married people tend to live longer lives than non-married people. Having a partnership with another person can help you live healthier and longer.
Some of the blue zone cultures have multi-generational homes. This means that children may live with their parents, grandparents, and sometimes aunts, uncles, and cousins too. This close support and from family is tied to better health outcomes overall.
9. Drinking in Moderation
Alcohol consumption is a contested health topic. But what we know from the longest living communities is that drinking (if done at all) should be done in moderation.
A couple of glasses of red wine may even improve heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Believe it or not, when people suddenly stop working, their risk of disease increases significantly. While there could be several things to explain this trend, one of the most likely culprits is inactivity. People retire and they move less causing them to gain weight or develop other health problems.
However, in cultures with healthy older adults retirement looks different. They spend their new free time working outside and participating in hobbies that keep them active and busy.
So for those planning to retire, look for activities to keep you engaged and motivated. This can help you live longer and with purpose.
11. Viewing Health as Important
Healthy people that live long lives understand that their health is important and they don’t take it for granted. They design their life and lifestyle with their health in mind.
Having a long life depends on practicing healthy habits regularly. And not just because you are “supposed to”, but because you value your health. This is a tenant for the longest living people too.
Build Healthy Habits and Live Better Today
These healthy habits of the longest living people in the world is a great place to start if you are looking to change your lifestyle for the better. Adopting new habits can change the way you live and how long you live.
Remember that starting new habits can be hard, so start small and work your way up using attainable goals.
If you are looking for support during your health journey, contact us and learn how we can help you live well.