Blue Zones Communities - Cedar Rapids Metro YMCA

Blue Zones Communities

Blue Zones Communities – Creating Environments of Health


The Approach

In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic and hired the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people lived measurably better.  They found five Blue Zones, places where people reach age 100 at rates up to 10 times greater than in the United States.  With this research we then, in a sense, reverse engineer environments of longevity.
We don’t rely on individual behavior change. Instead we focus on making the healthy choice the easy choice.  Rather than nagging residents to walk more, we make walking easier and more desirable than driving. By making wholesome foods more prevalent and accessible and less expensive than junk foods, more people will begin to eat healthier naturally. We’ve identified the lifestyle and environmental characteristics in each of these Blue Zones and help American cities optimize their own communities for better longevity and well being.

Blue Zones Communities

The Blue Zones Project initiative to become a Blue Zones Community™ is a systems approach that allows citizens, schools, employers, restaurants, grocery stores and community leaders to work together on policies and programs that will make the most impact and move the community towards optimal health and well-being.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and Marion

All three cities won designation as Blue Zone Communities.  
Click here to read about what this means...
“Health and the cost of health care are on everybody’s mind,” the mayor said. “And one of the ways to improve health and reduce your costs is to have a healthier lifestyle. So we’ve supported the governor from Day 1 when he said he wanted to make Iowa the healthiest states in the country. We want to help in that effort by making Cedar Rapids the healthiest city in Iowa.”
 - Cedar Rapids Mayor, Ron Corbett

Blue Zones Communities and the Y

Because of our focus on Healthy Living, (that is, healthy choices in food, exercise and spiritual development) the Y is uniquely positioned to help influence the creation healthy habits in our communities.  

Take the Vitality Compass to Learn Your Biological Age

Help the Y support our community in the effort to become a Blue Zones Community®!  You know how old you are based on how many birthdays you’ve had in your life – but how old is your lifestyle making you? What’s your well-being age versus your actual age? Find out and get a kick-start to your 2015 resolutions.  Please take 5 minutes and complete the Vitality Compass® to find out your well-being age.  

Adopt the Power 9 Principles

1. Move Naturally 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. They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.

2. Purpose. The Okinawans call it “Ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida;” for both it translates to “why I wake up in the morning.” Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy

3. Down Shift Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress. Stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease. What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors, Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.

4. 80% Rule  “Hara hachi bu”  – the Okinawan, 2500-year old Confucian mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. People in the Blue Zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and then they don’t eat any more the rest of the day.

5. Plant Slant  Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Meat—mostly pork—is eaten on average only five times per month.  Serving sizes are 3-4 oz., about the size of deck or cards.

6. Wine @ 5 People in all Blue Zones (except Adventists) drink alcohol moderately and regularly.  Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day (preferably Sardinian Cannonau wine), with friends and/or with food. And no, you can’t save up all weekend and have 14 drinks on Saturday.

7. Belong All but five of the 263 centenarians we interviewed belonged to some faith-based community.  Denomination doesn’t seem to matter. Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4-14 years of life expectancy.

8. Loved Ones First Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby or in the home (It lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home too.). They commit to a life partner (which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy) and invest in their children with time and love (They’ll be more likely to care for you when the time comes).

9. Right Tribe The world’s longest lived people chose–or were born into–social circles that supported healthy behaviors, Okinawans created ”moais”–groups of five friends that committed to each other for life. Research from the Framingham Studies shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness are contagious. So the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.

To make it to age 100, you have to have won the genetic lottery. But most of us have the capacity to make it well into our early 90’s and largely without chronic disease. As the Adventists demonstrate, the average person’s life expectancy could increase by 10-12 years by adopting a Blue Zones lifestyle.

Click here to read the Power 9 Blog.



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