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5 Secrets to Live Over 100 Years Old (The Science Behind the Longest-Living People on Earth)

5 Secrets to Live Over 100 Years Old (The Science Behind the Longest-Living People on Earth)

There are places on earth where, if you don’t make it to 100, it’s almost unusual.

These places have been studied by scientists for decades and have been given a name: blue zones.

As it turns out, blue zones exist only in a few places on earth:

  1. Sardinia, Italy
  2. The islands of Okinawa, Japan
  3. Loma Linda, California
  4. Nicoya, Costa Rica
  5. Ikaria, Greece

But there’s one reason why these people have been studied so much by scientists.

Beyond just living to 100 in much higher rates than virtually anywhere else in the world, these people suffer from a fraction of the health issues that most westerners suffer from in their 30s, 40s, 50s and later.

Dementia, heart issues and depression are almost non-existent among these people. What this means it that these people live a fantastic quality of life their entire (long) lives – not just at the end.

That is why this research is so tremendously valuable to most of us.

What’s Wrong In the West?

In the United States, 50% of the people that die every year die from Heart Disease and Cancer – both of which are somewhat preventable.

We know that there are cultures on earth without heart disease.

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And we know that there are cultures on earth without cancer or incredibly low rates of cancer.

And we know that both have a very strong diet and lifestyle component. Yet we haven’t quite figured out why so many people are dying.

What’s amazing is that in these blue zone communities (in particular, Ikaria, Greece) cancer rates are a fraction of what they are in the west, heart disease rates are almost HALF of what they are, and dementia doesn’t even exist.

What that means is that not only do these people rarely get many of the diseases you and I would get (and thus live a more enjoyable, pain-free life), they enjoy optimal health throughout their entire lives – almost until the day they die.

By living a certain lifestyle, not only do you improve your health NOW, this ensures you avoid the major killers later in your life.

So rather than just saying “okay, but what if I don’t want to live to 100?” these suggestions will help you live an optimally healthy and happy life now.

So What Are These Similarities?

Longevity Venn Diagram

    Researchers ended up drawing conclusions between three of these particular groups: the Sardinians, the Okinawans, and the Loma Linda, California group.

    What’s interesting is that their “secrets” are not all tangible things.

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    I’m going to introduce you to the five similarities among the groups, which aren’t exactly secrets, and then after I’ll show you the individual secrets each of these cultures had. To me, the secrets are what come after these five.

    Here’s what they are:

    #1 Family

    Family is stressed as the most important thing in the lives of these people. It’s a priority to regularly see them, visit them, and interact with people part of their own tribe.  Virtually everything in these cultures revolves around social interaction.

    #2 No smoking (obvious)

    #3 Plant-based diet

    The major part of each meal was plants.

    Note: this does NOT mean they didn’t eat meat or carbohydrates. It means that (like I’ve recommended in this six pack article), the foundation of each meal is plants, followed by a smaller portion of meat or refined carbohydrates.

    #4 Constant low level of exercise (maybe not what you’re thinking of).

    When we usually think of physical activity these days, we usually think of going to the gym and hitting ithard.

    In reality, the people that regularly live to be the oldest aren’t going through extreme workouts – they’re just getting regular physical activity like gardening, hiking, or other labor required for farming. And they’re getting this activity every day.

    Regular low or moderate level exercise every day is their exercise.

    #5 Social engagement

    We see “social ties/family” as 2/5 key characteristics of people who live to 100.

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    Family and social ties make up an entire 30% of this “secret.” Pretty interesting, right?

    But what I wanted was specifics. Having a social life is great, but what was it about the specific characteristics of each culture that was enabling them to live to an old age?

    The Specific “Secrets” of Each Culture

    I want to quickly go into a bit of detail on each culture just so you can see how intangible some aspects of optimal health are.  Check out some of the qualities that researchers noted about each culture, that weren’t necessarily as concrete as “diet and exercise.”

    The Ikarian Secret

    The Ikarians in Greece have 10x the amount of people that reach 100, compared to the United States.

    Here are some of the really interesting things, tangible or otherwise, about them:

    • They put their family first and have really close family ties – stronger social ties have been linked to lower rates of depression and stress (Source).
    • They walk an average of 5 miles a day on uneven terrain (as shepherds).
    • They drink red wine – where studies usually show back and forth research on alcohol, red wine is packed with antioxidants – what’s interesting is that the Ikarian (like the Sardinian) variety of red wine has three times the normal levels of most red wine.

    Ikarians also have a more relaxed outlook on life and laugh whenever possible. (More on the studies behind the Ikarians here).

    The Okinawan Secret

    The Okinawans in Japan have a fascinating concept they partly attribute to their long lives, called ikigai– which is a reason for waking up in the morning. It’s almost like a purpose you give to life (or to the day). (Source)

    • They partly develop this ikigai by having incredibly strong social ties – friends and family that help provide emotional, physical and even financial support (+1 for friends!) (More on ikigai here).
    • Many of the local Okinawans have their own gardens that they play in daily (and obviously get food from, too).
    • The Okinawans also follow a mostly plant diet, but what’s interesting is that they also have a personal rule where they only eat until 80% full, called hari hachi bu.

    Some Okinawans in their 90s still even have an active sex life. Talk about impressive!

    Nicoya, Costa Rican Secret

    The Costa Ricans have a very similar rule as the Okinawans – they have something called a plan de vida – a reason to live (source).

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    • The plan de vida is essentially a purpose or meaning they give to life, which frequently revolves around their social circle or their family. Family is again a huge component of the Nicoya people’s lives.
    • The Nicoyans also believe in hard work, they rise with the sun, sleep at least 8 hours a night, and eat their biggest meal in the morning – and their smallest meal at night.

    ***

    The Million Dollar Question: Is Longevity “All About” Diet and Exercise?

    Honestly, we may never be able to synthesize and write a scientific article on “why” these people live long. We know diet, lifestyle, etc. are critical factors but there are probably many other intangible factors associated with their lifestyle of longevity and great health.

    I want to draw your attention to a few interesting things: the intangible aspects of these people’s lives.

    Their social circles. The importance of family.

    Having a “reason for living.”  Working very hard and being active (not in the gym!), but also having a relaxed mental attitude towards life so they aren’t getting overly stressed.

    What’s incredibly interesting about these blue zones is that we typically associate longevity and health with fitness and food. In reality, there is an entire mental, social, spiritual and psychological realm that is equally as important.

    What About You?

    Are you making sure to take into account the intangible aspects of health? Your “social” health, your mental health, your “happiness” health, your spiritual health?

    All these factors play much more into health and longevity than you might think. Eating right and exercise are fantastic tools and critical for health, but so is inner cultivation and the cultivation of friendships.

    5 Secrets to Live Over 100 Years Old (The Science Behind the Longest-Living People on Earth) | Personal Excellence

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    Last Updated on January 14, 2019

    7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

    7 Ways To Make Exercise Fun For Everyone

    From Atkins to Paleo to eating gluten-free despite not being one of the rare few people afflicted with celiac disease, fad diets are everywhere. It drives me crazy because I believe these diets do more harm than good. Your body is made up of a variety of vitamins, nutrients, and minerals, and losing weight healthily isn’t possible when you fill your body with unnecessary synthetic plastics, sugars, and powders. There’s no easy button in life.

    What you need to do is exercise, which isn’t very appealing to many people. Workouts take work, so there’s already a stigma involved in going to the gym. Starting a healthy workout regimen becomes easier when you make it fun. If you want to live long and prosper, get off the couch and try these methods to turn your workout into a playout.

    1. Take the scenic route.

    Walking is an easy way to transition to a healthy lifestyle, and it’s free. Not only do you burn calories (check out this calculator for how many calories you burn based on your weight), but you see the world in a different way. Hiking in nature is great if you have access to it, but don’t let living in an urban area deter you from walking.

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    Whenever I’m creatively stuck I get my head straight by walking a couple of miles. It’s also how I discover new paths, meet new people, and stumble upon hole-in-the-wall spots I never would have found otherwise. You could drive past the same place every day and never appreciate the beauty, nor even notice it’s there.

    2. Distract yourself.

    No matter what exercise routine you choose, use the time to meditate. You may wonder how marathon runners are able to put so many miles on their bodies. It’s because the pain from running that you avoid is something they’ve learned to harness to enter a transcendental state. If you’re aware of the benefits of meditation and exercise but don’t have time to do both, you can combine them, killing two birds with one healthy stone.

    3. Listen to music or podcasts.

    There are few experiences in life more pleasurable than turning up the music and drowning out the world around you. With so many podcasts and music apps available on your smartphone, you can easily find entertainment options perfectly suited to your personal tastes. Never worry what people may think of you when working out;instead, crank up the volume and get lost in your own world. You’ll be in shape before you know it.

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    4. Bring a friend.

    Some people can’t go anywhere alone. While I highly recommend dining out and seeing a movie in a theater alone, having company while exercising is very helpful. It allows you to pace yourself with someone else, and gives you a coach to motivate and push harder than you may have on your own.

    Many exercises are safer when done with a friend, and some sports can only be played with another person. Involving others in your goals can mean the difference between success and failure. Just remember to continue exercising if the other person flakes, or they’ll be in control of your health.

    5. Accessorize.

    There are accessories that can make exercise easier, and sometimes buying a new toy can add some much-needed fun to your routine. With apps like RunKeeper and Nike+, your smartphone is capable of tracking your vitals and progress. Wrist weights can add a new dimension to your workout, and, if you exercise at night, a headlamp can help you see what’s in front of you so you don’t trip.

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    For urban runners and power-walkers, one of the biggest obstacles is other people. It’s difficult to get in your meditative zone and enjoy your music when you constantly have to dodge people. To resolve this vexing issue, Runbell, a startup in Tokyo, has developed the runner’s version of the bicycle bell. With this lightweight brass bell warning people you’re approaching from behind, you’re free to maintain your transcendental state while continuing your workout. Head to their Kickstarter campaign to pledge your support.

    6. Compete.

    A little healthy competition can motivate you to push yourself further in your workout regimen. There are apps like Zombies, Run! which turns your run into a video game, and MyFitnessPal which allows you to connect with others in the exercise community. Whether you’re directly competing with a friend, an online community, or against your previous self, setting goals is the key to reaching them. Running with no destination can feel like an impossible task, and it’s easy to get distracted.

    7. Relax.

    The best part about exercising is how much you enjoy the downtime. If you think laying on your couch all day is enjoyable, it has nothing on that hour you spend as a couch potato after a rigorous workout. Jay-Z said it best, “in order to experience joy, you need pain.” The harder you push yourself while exercising, the better you’ll feel when you’re relaxing.

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    With that said, don’t relax too much, or it loses the effect. It’s okay to indulge every so often. Treat yourself to some junk food you’re craving, imbibe a drink here and there, and spend a day vegging out on your couch. Staying healthy doesn’t have to be torture. Just turn down when you can and dedicate some time to better the health of your body. You only get one.

    Featured photo credit: tpsdave via pixabay.com

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