The critical information derived from studying the Blue Zones is that not one of the people living in these places was actively trying to get old. It is their environment that provokes a lifestyle that has amazing longevity as a consequence. However, you, me and the rest of the 99.9% of the world population, do not live there.
According to statistics published by the United Nations in 2015, 54% of the world population lives in an urban environment. In more developed regions this is actually 78.3%. This means that your habitat most likely consists of concrete, noise, pollution, and hopefully a park a couple of blocks away.
At the same time, the current state of affairs about health revolve around signing up for
a gym membership and starting a new diet. According to health trends, that is what a healthy lifestyle consists of. Nevertheless, none of these work in the long term. In the United States 90% of the people starting a diet will have quit after 7 months tops. Similarly, of all the people that signed up for a gym membership, 90% quit within three years.
Interestingly we tend to look for a solution with the same means that we have created the problem initially. First, we construct buildings, chairs, and cubicles to sit in. Then, when problems occur, we solve them not by getting rid of the chairs and buildings, but by designating another building to move the body.
Another example of this phenomenon is the rise in traffic. Every year there are cheaper cars available. Therefore, an increasing amount of people buy one. Between the years 2000 and 2014 almost 55 million cars were sold worldwide. Then in 2017 alone, 79 million cars were sold worldwide. Consequently, the roads are ever fuller with more people stuck in traffic. The solution for this problem? Build more roads.
Both in the case of going to the gym to solve the sedentary lifestyle, and the problems occurring from increased car possession, there is nobody questioning the presence of buildings, cubicles, chairs, and cars by itself. We are so far down the rabbit hole that our biases, the entangled economic interests, and governmental policies keep us there.
I believe that roads are not the solution for our traffic issues, just like gym memberships are not a fix for our sedentary lifestyle.
Now we know that we cannot necessarily trust our urban, work, and home environment by itself to be provocative of a healthy lifestyle. It is up to you however, to make changes within and around that will induce positive lifestyle choices. As learned from the Blue Zones, one habit will not do the trick, however a variety of habits together will.
Underneath I sum up tips that I have given to my clients as well as incorporated in my own life. I divide them as follows; internal environment (mindset, physical capacity), external environment (home, work), and social environment (family, friends).
- Park further from work, get off the bus earlier, and use the toilet farthest away from you
- Reorganize your house for it to be more inviting to move; hang a bar in the living room (to hang on), lay out an exercise mat, or put a fitness ball in sight. Once it’s there it is more likely you will use it
- Put more plants in your house
- Buy more fruits and vegetables, once they are there it is more likely you will eat them
- Sleep longer (sleep around 8 hours)
- Take 15 minutes of quite time every day (without phone, laptop etc.)
- Drink sufficient water
- If you are ready to change something about yourself, talk about it, this way friends and family can support you
- Join an online community for support in your lifestyle change, a strength training forum, a runners forum, or track your activities with myfitnesspal, Strava, or something equal, and exchange
Above is a list of mostly minor and little glamorous interventions. However, these basics will positively influence your life. The most recent ones I incorporated myself are: 20 minute daily meditation, hanging from the stairs I walk down, walk everything within 1 kilometer from my house, and I revalued the way the living room was furnished. There seemed to be space to do yoga after all.