Be active without having to think about it
Welcome to La Vie en Bleu a series where I share what Dan Buettner, author of The Blue Zones, reveals as powerful and simple lessons that can help put anyone on the path to a healthier and happier life. We begin with the first of nine lessons from the Blue Zones, five unique communities that have common elements of diet, lifestyle and outlook on life that have led to not only an amazing number of years lived, but also a better quality of life.
Lesson One: Move Naturally
As part of their daily routine, centenarians living in the Blue Zones were found to engage in regular, low-intensity physical activity like walking, hiking and gardening.
All successful centenarians did—and do—a lot of walking almost everyday! After a hard day, walking can relieve stress, and after a meal it can aid in digestion. I’ve never been one who loves to go to the gym to get a good workout. Sure, in the past I’ve faithfully huffed and puffed through aerobics classes and while using cardio and weight machines at the gym. I’ve also done a lot of running and injured my knees. Now, however, I prefer to incorporate physical activity into my daily routine and get my exercise without even realizing it. I try to walk a lot, especially while carrying my baby in a wrap. Walking is such a great activity for a variety of reasons—it’s free, always accessible and, if you walk briskly, it may have the same cardiovascular benefits as running—without being as hard on the joints.
To get moving in your own personal Blue Zone, practice as much physical exertion for as many moments during the day, while doing things that are naturally part of your daily routine. Of course you should first discuss potential exercise routines with your doctor but ideally, it’s best to try to diversify daily physical movement. Include a combination of aerobic, balancing and muscle strengthening activities. In Blue Zone cultures, regular, low-intensity activities satisfy all three.
Tips and strategies to help you get moving
By making life a little more challenging, you can easily add more activity to your days. Little things like taking the stairs, parking in the furthest lot, and walk instead of driving make a difference. Be prepared to use as many as these as possible: bicycle, comfortable walking shoes, rake, broom, snow shovel.
Have fun. Keep moving.
Make a list of physical activities you enjoy. Instead of exercising just for the sake of exercising, make your lifestyle more active. Walk to the store. At work, take a walking break instead of a coffee break. Build activity into your routine and lifestyle. Do what you enjoy and don’t force yourself to do things you dislike.
Walk. Walk. Walk.
Find creative ways to add more steps to your day. Take a brisk walk before breakfast or after dinner.
Make a date.
Getting out and about can be more fun with other people. Combine walking with socializing. It may be the best strategy for setting yourself up for the habit. Think about whose company you enjoy, who do you like to spend time with, and who has about the same level of physical ability.
Plant a garden.
With all the digging, planting, bending and carrying required, gardening provides frequent, low-intensity, full range of motion activity. It relieves stress and the best part is that you emerge from the season with fresh fruits and vegetables!
Enroll in a yoga class.
Aim to practice yoga at least twice a week.
Note, Blue Zone centenarians were not marathoners or exercise junkies. Instead, they moved naturally and physical activity easily became an integral part of their day. How do you incorporate physical activity into your daily routine? La Vie en Bleu will continue with lesson number two from the Blue Zones on how to live a healthier and happier life. Won’t you join me?
The Blue Zones include:
Nicoya, Costa Rica
Loma Linda, California
The Nine Lessons from the Blue Zones
Lesson One: Move Naturally
Lesson Two: Hara Hachi Bu
Lesson Three: Plant Slant
Lesson Four: Grapes of Life
Lesson Five: Purpose Now
Lesson Six: Slow Down
Lesson Seven: Belong
Lesson Eight: Family First
Lesson Nine: Right Tribe