9 Habits of the World’s Healthiest People

Wellness

9 Habits of the World’s Healthiest People

Stress.Healthy Living
Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC
By Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC
Jan 15, 2020
A healthy couple walking in a field

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? Many people do, but research shows that 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail. Although many people make positive changes during the first two weeks of January, they usually slip back into their old habits by February.

One reason that resolutions typically do not last is that people often set broad goals without creating a plan of action. Common resolutions like losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and getting fit aren’t just too vague—they’re long-term goals that need to be broken down into smaller steps in order to measure success. Failure to see progress can leave people frustrated and lead them to give up.

A better solution: focus instead on developing small habits that you can easily incorporate into your daily life. These small habits are often the key to reaching your larger goals, like losing weight. To get started, take a look at some of these habits of the world’s healthiest people.

Blue Zones: Home to the World’s Healthiest People

In certain areas of the world, known as Blue Zones, people regularly live to the age of 100 or more. Not only do they live longer, but they’re also healthier. They have lower rates of chronic disease, including cancer, depression, and dementia. They also report having more energy, feeling stronger, and sleeping better.

Although genetics do play a role in how long we live, research shows that genetics count for only about 20% of longevity. The rest is determined by lifestyle and environmental factors. Diet and exercise play a role, as you might expect, but so do factors such as strong family and community ties.

The Power 9

Researchers have identified nine common habits among Blue Zone inhabitants, which are known as the Power 9. Perhaps surprisingly, only one of the Power 9 involves exercise, and three are related to diet. The rest are related to spiritual and mental health.

Incorporating some or all of these into your daily life could have a profound effect on your overall health and help you reach your larger health goals.

1. Move Naturally

Don’t have a gym membership? No problem! The world’s healthiest people don’t, either. Many of them live in mountainous regions where regular, moderate activities are part of their daily lives. This may mean walking, working in the garden, or chopping wood. Research shows that regular, moderate activity is associated with better cardiovascular health and increased longevity. It may also help improve insulin sensitivity and decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes.

So, if the thought of starting a new exercise routine is intimidating, don’t sweat it (literally)! Instead, look for ways you can add more activity into your daily life. Get a fitness tracker and commit to walking at least 10,000 steps a day. Park your car farther away and take the stairs when possible. As your activity level increases, you’ll likely find that your energy level does, too.

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2. Eat a Plant-Based Diet

People in Blue Zones eat a lot of plants, and much of their protein comes from beans. Plant-based diets have been shown to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and hypertension. This type of diet may also lead to weight loss.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t eat meat, but try to think of it as an occasional treat rather than a daily staple. You can get many of the benefits of a plant-based diet without going all the way. Focus your diet on leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables, and legumes. Try to cut your meat consumption down to one or two times a week.

3. Follow the 80 Percent Rule

How often do you walk away from the dinner table feeling stuffed? Eating too much in one sitting is hard on your digestive system, and digestive health is important for overall health.

Blue Zone inhabitants practice the art of eating only until they feel 80 percent full. They also eat a light, early dinner, and then they don’t eat for the rest of the day.

If you’re used to eating until you’re completely full and snacking throughout the night, this can take some adjustment. Start eating more slowly and put your fork down between bites. It may also help to eliminate distractions, such as eating in front of the TV.

4. Have a Glass of Wine

Go ahead—you’re allowed a glass of wine in the evening! Research shows that moderate alcohol drinkers live longer than those who abstain from alcohol and those who drink heavily.

Most Blue Zone inhabitants drink alcohol moderately—preferably red wine, which contains a beneficial compound called resveratrol.

Just limit yourself to no more than two glasses a day. And, if you know alcohol is a problem for you, continue to avoid it.

5. Know Your Purpose

Having a sense of purpose can help you live longer. In fact, research shows that people who retire early are more likely to die early.

If you’re retired or nearing retirement, make sure you have another reason to get up in the morning. This could mean doing volunteer work, caring for your grandchildren, starting a new hobby, or even caring for a pet—anything that gives you something to look forward to.

6. Manage Stress

Everyone experiences stress, but people in Blue Zones don’t let it rule their lives. Chronic stress is associated with numerous negative health effects, including heart disease, weight gain, difficulty sleeping, depression and anxiety, and digestive problems.

Do what you can to reduce your stress levels. Regular exercise helps, as do practices such as yoga and meditation.

7. Have Faith

Most Blue Zone inhabitants belong to some sort of faith-based community. Denomination doesn’t matter, as long as you are attending services with people who share your beliefs. Regularly attending faith-based services is associated with 4-14 years of increased life expectancy.

8. Have Strong Family Ties

People in Blue Zones are close to their family members, and often have several generations living under one roof. Research shows that having grandparents in the home is good for the children. People in Blue Zones also commit to a life partner, which can increase life expectancy.

9. Find Your Community

Blue Zone inhabitants typically belong to a social circle that supports healthy behavior. You’ve probably heard that you become like the five people you spend the most time with. Behaviors such as smiling and laughing are contagious, so building a strong social network of like-minded people can help increase your happiness and overall well-being.

If you don’t have a strong social circle, try joining a club or a church where you can meet people who share your interests.

Are you already practicing any of these habits? Which ones can you start doing now? Start looking for ways to add the Power 9 habits to your life every day, and start experiencing the benefits of more energy, less stress, and better overall health.

Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

Karen Eisenbraun, CHNC

Karen Eisenbraun is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She holds an English degree from Knox College and has written extensively about topics related to holistic health, clinical nutrition, and weight management.

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