Live Longer and Healthier: Aerospace Champions Wellness

by Gail Kellner
posted November 12, 2012

Carrie Anne Blevins, organizational lead for Blue Zones, leads Aerospace employees in warmup exercises before the October Wellness Walk in El Segundo, Calif. Photo by Elisa Haber

It is indeed a fact that we aren’t getting any younger, but what if we could live healthy, active lifestyles well into our 90s just by harnessing some powerful, yet simple, principles that are at our fingertips just for the asking?

Aerospace recently became a Designated Blue Zones Worksite, which allows employees to tap into some of the interesting research that the Blue Zones Project has amassed.

The worksite designation was achieved after Aerospace launched a reinvigorated WellnessWorks campaign in 2011 that included regular walking programs, weight management programs, onsite fitness activities, financial planning, designing benefits to promote illness prevention, the creation of a wellness committee, and providing access to the Blue Zones website to employees.

So, what is a Blue Zone, and what can we learn from it?

A Blue Zone is a community where common elements of lifestyle, diet, and outlook have led to an amazing quality and quantity of life, according to Dan Buettner, author of “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.” He teamed up with National Geographic and studied five areas where people reach the age of 100 at much higher rates than anywhere else.  Citizens of Sardinia Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, Calif., have maintained their healthy lifestyles for generations.

Apparently, genetics are not the end all. According to Buettner, it really boils down to two factors: your lifestyle and your environment.

Buettner and a team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists searched for evidence-based research that was present in all five locations. They found nine important principles common to residents of all five areas.   They estimate that the average person’s life expectancy could increase by 10-12 years by adopting a Blue Zones lifestyle.

1. Move Naturally — The world’s oldest living people in these communities don’t join gyms. They live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it.  They grow gardens and don’t have mechanical conveniences for house and yard work.

2. Purpose — Why do you wake up in the morning?  Knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.

3. Down Shift — Even people in the Blue Zones experience stress, but they create routines to shed stress. Some of them pray, some take naps, and some do a happy hour.

4. 80 Percent Rule — They stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. They eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and they do not eat for the rest of the day.

5. Plant Slant — Beans, including fava, black, soy and lentils, are the cornerstone of most of their diets.  Meat, mostly pork, is eaten on average only five times per month.  Serving sizes are three to four ounces (about the size of deck of playing cards).

6. Wine at Five — Most people in the Blue Zones drink alcohol moderately and regularly. (The exception is Loma Linda, heavily represented by Seventh Day Adventists who don’t drink, but who make up for it with other healthy lifestyle practices.) All other things being equal, moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers.  The trick is to drink 1-2 glasses per day (preferably full-bodied red wine) with friends or with food.

7. Belong — All but five of the 263 centenarians interviewed belonged to some faith-based community.  Denomination didn’t matter.  Researchers determined that attending faith-based services weekly will add four to 14 years to your life.

8. Loved Ones First — Successful centenarians in the Blue Zones put their families first. By taking care of aging parents or grandparents, it actually lowers disease and mortality rates of the children in the home. They also commit to a life partner, and invest in their children, which can add up to three years of life expectancy.

9. Right Tribe — Centenarians were born into social circles (friends committed to one another for life) that supported healthy behaviors. Research shows that smoking, obesity, happiness, and even loneliness, are contagious.

If you would like to receive an estimate on your biological age, overall life expectancy, or years that you are gaining/losing because of your habits, visit http://apps.bluezones.com/vitality.