This picture makes me think of this song.
I recently came across this really interesting post on the pop health site Fit Sugar. Titled “How to Live to Be 100”, the article started off by briefly dispelling a few aging myths, and then delved into some new research done on factors that affect longevity.
“Author Dan Buettner, National Geographic researchers, and The National Institute on Aging studied five places known as "Blue Zones," whose populations live considerably longer lives — from Sardinia to Okinawa. In these five areas, the researchers found four commonalities.”
Coming from a site that tends to be—in my opinion—full of a lot of health and fitness “fluff”, it is nice to see an article like this that at least alludes to the importance of holistic wellness.
While I generally don’t put too much stock in studies (there are so many variables and they can be skewed so easily), I think this one really affirms the things that we as humans intuitively knew all along.
Here is what the researchers found:
“1. These people don't ‘work out.’ In the Blue Zones, people's lives are set up in such a way that they're naturally encouraged to do physical activity. Friends' houses, stores, and jobs are within walking distance, and they do yard work and have their own gardens.”
This aspect especially resonated with me. After all, think about it: back in the olden days people didn’t spend hours working out on the treadmill or doing endless Pilates routines. Nothing against either of these methods of exercise, but I can’t help but think that useful—i.e., movement that actually accomplishes something more than just physical benefits (gardening, for example)—is an amazing concept. Our ancestors tilled their own fields, ground their own wheat, weaved their own cloth, etc. While I realize that not all of us can ditch our jobs and houses and move to the prairie to live like Laura Ingalls, we can try to change our attitude about exercise and find methods of movement that are natural to our daily way of life. I really like the ideas given: walk or bike to friend’s houses, stores, jobs (if you can), do yard work…or how about just playing with your kids/siblings? It really makes sense to me that we should try to use our bodies more in the way they were meant to be used.
In my experience, I tend to build such a mental “thing” around exercise—feeling the need to “get it out of the way” or feeling guilty if I don’t do it. How about making it a way of life? How about not even thinking about it? How about just living, and letting our bodies work and move in the day to day situations and functions in the way that they were made to? That sounds really liberating, doesn’t it! (P.S. This topic kind of reminds me of a post Aletheia wrote questioning how we’ve become “like hamsters on an exercise wheel.” At the time, I found it kind of off-putting, but now I sort of understand what she was getting at. Check it out!)
“2. They have the right outlook on life, and take time to slow down to reduce stress. They also focus on their sense of purpose, and continue doing something important every day of their lives (retirement isn't in their vocabulary).”
I remember my dad telling me that when he retired last summer his cardiologist told him (something to the effect of): “You have to do something. What are you going to do to keep your mind and yourself active?” So far, staying active hasn’t been a problem for my dad, as he has since picked up another job and is busier than before he retired! This does, however, bring up an interesting point. Obviously, this cardiologist knew the importance of not letting yourself degrade just because life is slowing down. I remember seeing once that AARP even has online “exercises” you can do to keep your brain sharp. That just seems a little sad to me, though. Why not go out and accomplish something? As this study revealed, finding a purpose and doing something you are passionate about is an important part of staying young at heart. Yet even though doing something you enjoy will play a role in relieving stress, it is still important to take time to relax.
“3. The secret to longevity has nothing to do with the notion of dieting, and has everything to do with eating wisely with a focus on plant-based foods. These groups have strategies to avoid overeating, and yes, these cultures drink wine.”
I love this! You would think by now that people would have realized that DIETS DON’T WORK! But still, we have the low carb diet, the low-fat diet, the cabbage soup diet, the grapefruit diet…and who knows what else. But in reality, it’s all a lot less complicated. As Michael Pollan says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (Although, I would also argue that one would be wise to eliminate animal products.) That’s it! Unfortunately, this is a lot more difficult to follow in practice than it is to understand on paper. I think it’s also important to remember that food is just one aspect of health. While it is important, overall wellness—and therefore longevity—is so much more than just what we put in our mouths.
(By the way, I don’t know much about the wine part, as I’m not into alcohol. I don’t have anything against it, per se, I just don’t really trust it given my history and some of my family history.)
“4. There are strong social bonds in the Blue Zones and family comes first; caring for children and aging relatives is deemed a priority. They tend to be part of a faith-based community. They surround themselves with healthy people.”
In my opinion, this may be the most important aspect of all. I think having a positive attitude, balanced disposition and—most of all—a strong faith (!) is absolutely essential to not only health, but also happiness. If our spirits are sustained it only makes sense that the rest of us will thrive.
As one commenter said on the original article: “If I were to guess, I would say it is the last that most people overlook. If you aren't happy and kind to yourself and those around you, then why bother living to 100?” I couldn’t agree more, and I think this leads us to an important topic: Why do we want to live so long in the first place? While everything these days seems to be geared towards avoiding aging and staying young…do we really want to live that long? Especially if we believe in eternal life? This is a question I ponder a lot. I sometimes ask myself: Why am I so concerned about being healthy or not getting sick? Dying just means being with Jesus! I shouldn’t be afraid!
Some of you probably think this sounds a little crazy. Maybe it is. But the point I am trying to make is that it doesn’t matter how long we live if we aren’t happy. Many people see longevity as the reason for adopting healthier habits, but what is the point of being a centenarian if you aren’t happy and fulfilled with your life in the first place? There is a real fear in our society today of dying…of the unknown. But if we truly believe in Jesus Christ and in his message, what do we have to fear? Nothing. This really deserves a post of its own, however. : ) But just to tie things up, I think that God truly wants us to be happy, we just can’t expect ourselves to ever be completely fulfilled or satisfied by this earth.
What are your thoughts on ageing and longevity? Would rather live a short happy life or a long unfulfilling one?
It feels really good to be writing this kind of post. While they can be fun, I honestly get tired of my endless foodie posts. These are the kind of things I really love to write: honest, from my heart, thought-provoking, and unique. Okay, maybe I’m flattering myself by giving showering on all those accolades, but let me just say that writing stuff like this—even if it is lame—is one of the ways blogging helps me. I don’t care if it’s long and tedious and rambling and hard to read, getting my thoughts out like this allows me to work stuff out and dig deeper…it’s just really me.
Happy Sunday, all!