How to Create Your Own Blue Zones

So maybe, after learning about blue zones, you’ve decided you’d like to live a healthier, longer life, too. But you don’t live in Ikaria, Greece or Sardinia, Italy. You live in Kansas City, a community known less for healthy lifestyles and more for barbeque.

That’s no excuse though. One of Dan Buettner’s goals when he began studying the blue zones was to learn what people in these communities did to help them live longer, more active lives, and share that information with the rest of us so we can apply it to our own lives.

In fact, as part of his research, Albert Lea, Minnesota was selected from a handful of potential sites for a pilot blue zones project. Like Kansas City, Albert Lea had barriers to the healthy habits found in the blue zones. It wasn’t walkable, few people grew their own food or gardened, and grocery stores and restaurants didn’t always provide the healthiest fare. But, through the project, the community made changes.

People who participated in the pilot program lost weight, improved their overall health and longevity, and even helped reduce healthcare costs. But not every community is willing to transform into a blue zone.

Still, you can take charge and create your own personal blue zone. Here are some suggestions you can incorporate into your daily routine to help you live a healthier, longer life, where you live:

Eat less.

Americans are known for our high-fat, high-carb diets, which are also generally unhealthy. In blue zones, people only eat until they are 80 percent full and consume lots of fruits, vegetables and beans, and very little meat. By shifting their focus, the “blue zoners” also often reap the benefits of lower weight, less body fat, and less chronic disease.

Move more.

The “blue zoners” don’t have memberships at expensive health clubs, or watch 75” flat-screen TVs for hours on end. Instead, they get lots of exercise the old-fashioned way, by incorporating natural movement into their daily routines. So, walk to get the mail or take the stairs—not just once or twice, but every time. And instead of using gadgets to help with household chores, use simple tools to do things yourself, like sweeping, shoveling and raking. By incorporating activity into your routine, you’re more likely to stick with it, and to benefit by living longer.

Have faith!

Individuals who live in blue zones typically live in faith-based communities where prayer and worship are part of their lives. Research has shown that it doesn’t matter which faith you practice. What’s important is that you’re part of a faith-based community and that you show up. Do that and it could add up to 7 years to your life!

You’re also more likely to live longer if you have a purpose, or personal mission, and you’re able to articulate it.

Make the connection.

Diet, exercise and faith all meet at the intersection of social connectedness. By eating together, exercising and practicing faith as a group, blue zoners enjoy long talks with family and friends over healthy meals. They work with others who follow the same practices and get similar exercise, and they connect with others who practice similar faith traditions.

But most important, all these activities bring blue zoners together so they can enjoy their senses—touching natural foods as they gather and prepare them for meals, smelling and tasting delicious meals, hearing conversations, music and religious traditions, and seeing friends and family at gatherings. They don’t wear headphones or earbuds or sit in a corner, keeping to themselves. Blue zoners come together so they can get the most out of their daily lives for as long as they live.


Admittedly, most Americans have a lot of work to do to live like blue zoners, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. Start small. Try picking one thing that blue zoners do and incorporate it into your life. Stick with it until it’s second nature.

Need examples? Walk more. Eat less. Connect with a friend or neighbor. It doesn’t matter what you do—just pick one thing and do it. It could add years to your life, and life to your years.

To learn more about how you can create your own blue zone and what the world’s longest-lived populations do to reach the century mark, watch Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones, on Netflix. If you’d like to learn more, read Dan Buettner’s updated book The Blue Zones Secrets for Living Longer: Lessons From the Healthiest Places on Earth.

To be sure you hear your best and stay connected, no matter what your age, schedule an appointment with a doctoral-level audiologist.