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
Inconvenience yourself.
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
Ikaria, Greece
Sardinia, Italy
Okinawa, Japan
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

Related sites:
The Island Where People Forget to Die
Blue Zones
Life in the Blue Zone

6 thoughts on “Get Moving!

  1. Thank you for encouraging me to get more active. This approach is a positive, fun way to incorporate exercise into regular life.

    1. Hi Tanya, Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you found the post encouraging. If you think of any other fun ways to incorporate exercise into a daily routine, please don’t hesitate to let me know!

  2. Hi, Martine. I love that you work walking and activity into your lifestyle – it is the only way to live! I have struggled lately with being naturally active. We live in the desert, so the temperatures can be extreme – and everything is so spread out, dusty and barren! However, you motivate me to start walking more places with my youngest (2) in a stroller and the almost four year old walking with me. Two is too much to push for me these days – and I have been using it as an excuse. As you said, make the choice to be a little uncomfortable. I miss living in places that had parks to walk in – or that were just walkable. Still, one can plant a garden anywhere – and walk anywhere – even in the dessrt. Thank you for for your encouragement and reminder! 🙂 Oh, please let me know a Yoga DVD that you would recommend. I don’t have childcare for both kids at a single time, so something I could do at home would be amazing. Have a great day! – Best, Shanna

    1. Hi Shanna,
      LOL, I don’t have this down yet either. I struggle to be active and I only have one child! I can imagine your challenge with two! I also know your extreme temperatures–Loma Linda in the summer! When it was warmer here (DC area), I felt more motivated to carry baby in my wrap and walk every and anywhere. I still carry him when possible and it’s more convenient, but now, it’s harder to get him bundled up and out the door to walk. I’m trying to not make those excuses…. I have to remind myself to follow my own advice! I so wish I could plant a garden. Well, first, admittedly I know nothing about gardening, but I so want to learn! We live in an apartment building right now so a garden will be a challenge until we have a house and a proper yard. However, I’m hoping to try grow a few things on our balcony. As for DVDs, the only exercise DVDs that I have liked are Mari Winsor Pilates. A friend in my building recently lent me her yoga DVD (Yoga with Rodney Yee and Mariel Hemingway). I have not tried it yet, but hope to soon. Another friend just emailed me a schedule to do planks at home. If that interests you, let me know. If I come up with any other ideas, I’ll let you know. Wish I had more tips…. All the best!

      1. Hi, Martine-
        You are doing great. Window garden; walking when you can (bundling in winter – yes, so tough with the baby!) – just doing things to enrich your life. I have never tried pilates – tell me about this video – could I do it physically as a beginner? Is there special equipment involved? The yoga video intrigues me – let me know you you get on with it. Oh, and hubby and I adore DC. Our favorite place to visit. He was just there last summer for work. It is so walkable and vibrant… lucky you! Thanks for the great tips and take good care. Best, Shanna

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