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Beyond Trim

Aging Well

It’s my birthday month and that has me thinking about aging. I’d like to live a long, healthy life and enjoy many years of retirement. That’s my primary motivation for practicing a healthy lifestyle.

One of the best studies done on the effects of lifestyle on longevity was the Blue Zones project. This National Geographic expedition examined places around the world where people consistently live to be over 100 years old and remain healthy. A team of demographers, anthropologists, and scientists were able to identify common denominators, and the principle factors were distilled into healthy habits that anyone can practice. Here are a few of them:

  1. Move Naturally - The world's longest-lived people don't join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving. To incorporate more movement into your life consider taking the stairs, walking to appointments, parking farther from the store, and doing your own yard and housework.
  2. Know Your Purpose - Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy. What are the things you like to do and the things you don't? Put your skills into action in ways that will add meaning to your life and the lives of others.
  3. Down Shift - Although everyone experiences stress, the world's longest-lived people have routines to shed that stress. Find a stress-relieving strategy that works for you and make it a routine.
  4. 80% Rule - Okinawan centenarians stop eating when their stomach is 80% full. People in the Blue Zones areas also eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then don't eat any more the rest of the day.
  5. Plant Slant - Most people in the Blue Zones only consume small amounts of meat on rare occasions and eat a rich array of fresh fruits and vegetables. The cornerstone of most centenarian diets is beans.
  6. Right Tribe - Research shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness can be contagious. Surrounding yourself with the right friends will add years to your life.
  7. Belong - Most of the centenarians in the Blue Zones areas belonged to some kind of civic- or faith-based community.

My husband and I have been thinking a lot about retirement, and he recently completed a retirement savings calculator. I noticed that he set our life expectancy to 80 years old. I told him he had better break out his pencil again because I plan to be around a lot longer than that!