Today is my 38th birthday in the 50-0 Club. When my friends and I started turning 50 everyone joked that it was all downhill from there. So I began reversing their ages every birthday, reminding each that the goal was to get back to zero. So, the next year they were 49, then 48, and so forth. An older colleague of mine just bought a new sports car on his birthday and I thought, isn’t that what a 23 year-old should do?
In Dan Buettner’s new book The Blue Zones Solution we learn details about six behaviors researchers have discovered that many centenarians have in common. Blue Zones are those areas where there are statistically higher levels of people over 100 years old. The first and most famous Blue Zone, identified by researchers Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain, was Sardinia, a large island off the coast of Italy.
Buettner expanded the research and wanted to see what consistent behaviors might contribute to living longer. He focused on five Blue Zone areas – Okinawa (Japan); Sardinia (Italy); Nicoya (Costa Rica); Icaria (Greece); and among the Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, California.
While researchers found six behaviors common among the centenarians in these Blue Zone areas, Buettner clusters them into four simple categories.
- Positive Friends and Family. People live longer who have happy relationships with other people. While these relationships often start with spouses and include family, they often include long-term friends from church, recreational areas, and even former work colleagues.
- Healthy Diet. Their diets are consistently 95 percent plant-based and they get their protein from fish and legumes. They eat little or no red meat. Also, the Okinawans hold fast to an ancient Confucian custom to stop eating when they feel 80 percent full. Centenarians often eat their largest meal in the morning and not at night. And, while it has been widely reported they drink a glass of wine in the evening, it is only one glass.
- Have a Purpose. All humans need to have a purpose and most Centenarians have found one or more purposes that motivate them. It can be volunteer work, writing notes to people, singing in the Church choir, or just caring for a pet or even plants.
- Regular Physical Activity. While this can include regular exercise sessions, it usually just means they do things that require regular motion. It might be gardening, walking the dog, or cooking from scratch.
As I read about these four behaviors or secrets it reminds me again how important work is in our lives. A healthy work culture provides friends, contributes substantially to our purpose, and usually provides some level of regular activity. So remember, as the number of your employees in the 50-0 Club grows, you are helping them on their journey to 100 – and may you, too, have such a trip!