Blue Zone Workouts
Hello, everyone my name is Jennifer Youngblood and I'm one of the health educators with the Optima Health team in the health and preventive services department. I'm excited today to present to you, um, our topic on blue zone workouts. So, our agenda for this presentation is blue zones. We're going to discuss blue zones and what they are. We're going to talk about exercise for longevity and how exercise in these blue zones has led people to live longer. We're going to talk about N.E.A.T and what it is and how it works. We’re going to talk about how to optimize exercise for longevity and then we're going to look at a little additional research on health and longevity. And from there, we'll conclude and end the presentation.
Blue zone: what exactly are blue zones? Some of you may have heard the term. This may be new to some of you. So, let's just dive deep in for the moment and talk about these blue zones. Dan Buettner is the founder of blue zones and he and a team of researchers traveled around the world. He’s a National Geographic fellow, and he, they discovered, in their tour, five different places around the world that they call blue zones and those 5 places are: Okinawa, Japan, Oligastra region in Sardinia, Italy, the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, Ikaria, Greece and Loma Linda in California. Now, these are the locations that they defined and we're going to talk about why they defined these areas as blue zones.
Blue zones are places or regions, which have a high concentration of centenarians in addition to different clusters of people who have reached old age without disease and other health conditions, such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, and heart problems. Now, centenarians, if you're not familiar with that term, are those individuals who live to at least be 100 years or older. Furthermore, Buettner noted how individuals living in these areas or regions not only live longer, but their day to day activities are fulfilled with activity. Citizens who experience good health and positive engagements with their families and communities.
Buettner and his team identified 9 commonalities across these five blue zone regions. He refers to them as the Power of 9. Number one here is Move Naturally. The world's longest-lived people don't pump iron, run marathons, or join gyms. Instead, they live in environments that constantly nudge them into moving without thinking about it. They grow gardens and they don't have mechanical conveniences for house or yard work. Number two is Purpose. The Okinawans in Japan call it “ikigai” and the Nicoyans call it “plan de vida”. For both it translates to why I wake up in the morning. What is my purpose? What am I getting up for? And they say that knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to 7 years of extra life expectancy. Number three is Down Shift. Even people in the blue zones experience some stress. Stress, as we all know, leads to chronic inflammation associated with every major age-related disease. What the world's longest-lived people have that we don't have our routines to shed that stress. They take part in activities that alleviate that stress from their daily lives. The Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors. The Seventh Day Adventists pray and the Ikarians take a nap while the Sardians do happy hour.
Number four is the 80% rule. This is known as a hara hachi bu. The 2500-year-old mantra said before meals reminds them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full. The 20% gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining weight. People in the blue zones eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening, and then they don't eat any more the rest of the day. Number five is Plant Slant. Beans, including fava, black, soya, and lentils are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Most people would refer to this more as a plant-based diet. Um, they do eat pork. If they eat any meat, it's mostly pork and it's not an average of only 5 times per month. And their serving sizes are small. They’re 3 to 4 ounces which is about the size of a deck of cards. Number 6 is Wine at Five. People in all blue zones, except those Seventh Day Adventists in the Loma Linda area, drink alcohol moderately and regularly. Mind you, we're not telling you to go out and drink, but these are just traits that they have noted in these areas. Um, they say in these areas, the trick is to drink 1 to 2 glasses per day with friends and family, or with food. And, no, you can't save up all week and have 14 drinks on a Saturday afternoon. Number seven is Belong. All but 5 of over 200, um, that were interviewed in these regions belong to some sort of faith-based community. The denomination doesn't seem to matter. Research shows that attending some sort of faith-based services at least 4 times a month will add 4 to 14 years of life expectancy.
Successful centenarians in the blue zones put their families first. This means keeping aging parents and grandparents nearby, or in the home. They say it lowers disease and mortality rates of children in the home also. They commit to a life partner which can add up to 3 years of life expectancy and invest in their children with time and love. They'll be more likely to care for you when the time comes. Nine is to find the Right Tribe. The world's longest living people chose or were born into social circles that supported healthy behaviors. Okinawans created “moais” or “moai”; groups of 5 friends that committed to each other for life. Research from studies show that smoking, obesity, and loneliness, as well as happiness, are very contagious. So, the social networks of long-lived people have favorably shaped their health behaviors.
So, we've talked about the 9 and the power of 9 and the 9 components of characteristics that Buettner and his team, um, identified on their tour. But we today are going to focus on 1 of those 9, which is move naturally. So, we are going to talk about exercise and daily activities and moving in these blue zones. So, next we're going to talk about exercise for longevity.
In Okinawa, we see that one of the researchers on Buettner’s team, he’s a professor of Gerontology and biological services in California and on there, too, where he interviewed several residents in these areas, and he interviewed a fisherman in Okinawa who never retired. He is working every day and has worked every day from the time he was a child. And he told, um, this physician that he never retires; he's a fisherman so he has fished every day for years and years and years and he said that was true of a lot of fishermen in that area. He also heard stories of women in their nineties dancing with large bottles on their head several times a week. And in particular, one lady that he talked to, um, said, when she wasn't dancing, she enjoyed playing traditional Japanese music instruments. In Calabria, he spoke to tour Santour Caruso who mentioned that he walked every day to the olive grove and how much labor his olive trees required. In Loma Linda, um, this is a group of Seventh Day Adventists who are noted for their famous level of high exercise, walking fast, and going to the gym. In Costa Rica and Sarnia, enjoy physical work all their lives, especially in Costa Rica. When Dan Buettner asked, uh, some, some citizens in the Costa Rica area, and he asked them to share their secret about longevity and they said they enjoyed doing physical work their entire life. And when he posed the same questions to the shepherds of towns, and they mentioned that they leave their homes around November every year. And they take their sheep to lower elevations and warmer areas, and they do this all by walking. Um, and this is where the animals can find food and they don't return until April. So, they're gone about 5 months out of the year, and they're basically walking their sheep during this time. So constant exercise all day, every day.
So, in the five countries that I mentioned, what is one common theme that you noticed? I'm thinking back about each one and if you will think about it for just a second, I think you will agree that one important thing that we noted was that in all 5 countries there was some sort of physical activity or some sort of exercise. So, we ask ourselves what physical activity is best for healthy longevity? The one you enjoy most, they say, but also the one you can easily incorporate into your daily schedule and the one you keep doing up to your 100th birthday and beyond. So, when I read this, I was trying to figure out what would be something that I enjoyed doing and that I felt physically I could do from now until my 100th birthday and beyond. So, think about that for just a second. Many Okinawans practice martial arts, especially a dance inspired version of tai chi. This type of exercise you choose isn't important. What is important is that you're working all your body parts with rigor, meaning, to the point of breathing rapidly, or sweating for 5 to 10 hours a week, they say. Now, I do have a disclaimer here. You should always check with your physician before beginning any exercise program, but I'm just merely sharing with you what works in these areas. Keep in mind running weekly marathons isn't the objective her while overworking your body is not a good idea. Take for instance, if you think about buying a car with 100,000 miles on the odometer, would you buy it? Despite being relatively new, it has been driven a lot. Probably too much. You can replace the tires and repaint the chases, but you cannot change every belt, horse, and valve. I’m sorry hose. And there's a high chance that some overworked component will eventually break down. On the other hand, you don't want to leave your car parked in the garage most of the time as this will eventually cause it to break down. So, the moral of the story is here, we want to use our car, but we don't want to overuse our car, but we certainly don't want to under use our car either. And the same holds true for the human body.
It's important to exercise, but not to over exercise because knees, hips, and joints will eventually get damaged, particularly if you continue to exercise when you are injured or feel pain. On the bright side, certain exercises and diet can cause tissue to self-repair and regenerate. So, the human body does have some built in advantages over that car that we spoke about. You’re probably wondering what N.E.A.T is as I mentioned it in our agenda so we're going to move on and talk about N.E.AT.
N.E.AT is non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Wow, that’s a lot there, right? Take for instance, a relative or a family member that, you know, maybe it's a child, um, or someone you work with and they just never stop moving. They just remind you of the Energizer Bunny. Um, they're not lazy. They’re always up and moving. They're always on the go. It seems like they rarely sleep. They just never, never stop. Does anyone know anyone like that? So, when we talk about N.E.A.T or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, this occurs with every activity that we perform except when we're sleeping or performing sports-like exercises. It could be yard work, walking to work, housework, or even fidgeting. Just getting your 30 minutes to an hour workout doesn't seem to make up for all the time we spend sitting. People with high N.E.A.T. scores, if you will, seem to fidget, get up, and walk around for no reason, move their arms and legs more and generally get more movement throughout the day than some of their overweight friends. How does need increase longevity in those blue zones? Research has shown that if we sit less and move more, we live longer. Let me say that again, if we sit less and move more, we live longer. Balancing what we take in in energy with how much energy we expend can help us control our weight. Certain markers for inflammation in our body have also been found to increase when N.E.A.T. is not a regular part of your day. Small movements throughout the day add up and the cumulative effect is an increase metabolic rate. Since everything you do besides sleep or exercise adds up to your N.E.A.T score, it changes the balance of energy needed and used in our bodies. Sedentary jobs lead to lower levels of N.E.A.T. And then on the other side, agricultural jobs or construction jobs involve more movement throughout the day, and they're going to increase their N.E.A.T. score. So, a lot of us are working from home right now, working remotely and we're sitting on our computers a lot. So, we probably have lowered our N.E.A.T score. N.E.A.T could be the difference between gaining or losing weight due to the accumulation of energy throughout the day. Since sitting is the new smoking if you will, increasing your N.E.A.T along with a regular exercise program can add years to your life. Instead of getting the average sedentary time for Americans at a whopping 9 to 10 hours per day, wow, get up and move around more often. Whether you're gardening, taking a lap around the office, or even standing up during your conference call, it all counts. The main thing here is, is that you need to stay moving. And stay moving more than you sit still for your overall health. Researches have seen that in our bodies reactive proteins related to inflammation, triglycerides and blood sugar, all increase when we don't have those high N.E.A.T. scores on a regular basis. Heart health for those, not achieving the throughout the day is also concerning; setting off a loud alarm on how quickly the damage in our bodies can happen. The Journal of the American Diabetes Association published a study outlining how inactivity for just one day, can cause cell processes to fail allowing the breakdown of fats in our body and this in turn can cause our cholesterol.to become higher. Not surprisingly, though, people in the blue zones achieve higher levels of N.E.A.T. through their environments. They walk to their neighbors’ homes, or to the store, they garden, and they do chores by hand. They don't participate in much structured exercise. They have enough physical task to perform daily to keep N.E.A.T. at a level deemed as healthy, just as regular exercise routines. How much N.E.A.T is enough? How much do we need?
Although there's been no official public health rules that really apply here for what's enough N.E.A.T., adding a total of about 2 and a half hours of standing and light walking around the house or office should do it. Another tip is to stand up 5 minutes for every 30 minutes you sit. It shouldn't take much for you to start realizing the benefits without the need for rigid training programs. Now, I know a lot of you probably have a smart watch, Apple watch, a Fitbit, and we can set those timers. So, for every hour, you can set a timer and then stand up and walk around for at least 5 minutes. They’ve also suggested if you have a standup desk in your officer at home to stand up while you're on a conference call or why you're creating a PowerPoint or you're on a meeting, whatever the case might be, and just to get up and stand more and then, at least once an hour, get up and move around or stand for at least 5 minutes.
There are 10 ways you can try to boost your N.E.A.T. score. Get a sit to stand desk which can decrease your blood pressure, back pain, and blood sugar. Take a walk after each meal to lower blood sugars immediately following a meal. Walk to a coworker's desk instead of emailing them. Don’t let family text each other from another room. Gosh you know, I didn't realize that we did that a lot, but we do especially if you have a bigger house or an upstairs and there's a lot of noise. You may not hear each other and so rather than yelling, we tend to text each other from all parts of the house. I know I'm guilty of that. Not sure if you are. Set your phone alarm for a 30 second stretch and 5 minutes of standing and, I apologize, I think on the previous side, I said an hour, I think that's because my personal watch, um, beeps at me after an hour, but they do recommend after 30 minutes. Find friends who want to move with you more and make it a group effort. Um, they say walking or, you know, moving with a group helps keep you accountable. It also is more entertaining and gives you that time that you need for it to be social. Move around while you're watching TV, who would have thought. Um, you know, most of the time we watch TV, we are tending to make some popcorn, curl up on the couch with a blanket. Um, we never really think about, um, never think about those times where we could stand up while we're watching TV. Number 9, I'm sorry number 8, walk around the house. While you talk on the phone, you receive a phone call, get up and move around. Number 9 - they say if you can walk somewhere or if you can walk there, do it. If you can take the stairs, number 10, they say, at least do 3.I know I've seen people in different department stores or the mall and they'll drive around for, you know, it seems like forever to find that prime parking space. Um, but research says that if you're able to park further away and walk that, that would help improve the N.E.A.T. score. And if you can take the stairs, do at least 3 flights.
So, we've talked about N.E.A.T. and daily activity in those blue zones. We talked a little bit about exercise and not necessarily an exercise regimen, but just how to move daily in our tasks and increase that longevity. Um, so now we're going to talk about how to optimize our own exercise for longevity. I know it's hard to get enough exercise in and we're probably not, um, like those citizens that are living in the blue zones. A lot of us don't garden. A lot of us don't, you know, walk out to the olive trees and those sorts of things. So, even if we try to incorporate, um, different activities to improve that N.E.A.T. score, we can also optimize our own exercise, for longevity, and so what they recommend is number 1 is to walk fast for an hour. Every day the goal of walking for an hour a day can be easily achieved. Um, for example, pick a location that's 15, maybe 20 minutes from your work or home, and make a point of going there twice a day. It can also be achieved on the weekend by walking when you would normally drive. So, I know this might be a little bit easier with some working remotely. So, after breakfast or after lunch um, if you have a nice park within walking distance from your home, that's a good idea. You know, taking your children out for a walk, or if there's a favorite coffee shop that, you know, you frequent, you can walk there morning and afternoon and meet up with friends just so that you're getting in that 15 to 20 minutes a couple times a day and then, you know, normally on the weekends, you could do a little more, or you could walk where you would normally drive somewhere that might be a little bit further. Number 2 ride, run, or swim30 to 40 minutes, plus an additional 2 hours on the weekend. The best way to achieve this goal is to have both a stationary bike and a road bike. When you can, ride outside. When you can’t, use the exercise bike in high gear. Um, you want to use a bike that provides the option of a high magnetic resistance, which makes it a little harder to pedal as if you were going uphill. After that 10 minutes, you should be sweating. If you ride on the street, go uphill for at least 10 to 15 minutes, and do this for about 40 minutes every other day and for 2 hours on the weekend. And number 3 use your muscles. There you go. Humans evolved as a species that walks, runs, climbs trees and hills and uses a variety of muscles all the time. Now, people are using elevators and escalators instead of stairs. They're driving instead of walking. We’re using dishwashers and washing machines, instead of washing dishes and clothes by hand or buying food instead of growing it and hiring people to do even minor repair work around the house instead of learning how to fix things ourselves. Every muscle of the body needs to be used frequently because muscles grow and maintain or gain strength only in response to being challenged. I know a lot of people that do, um, or have, like, an exercise regimen will have a leg day, an arm day and, um, and that's fine, but we need to make sure that we incorporate at some point all of the muscles in our body, because those muscles that we're not using or we're not challenging will eventually will deplete. They’ll kind of waste away, so if we don't use them, we're going to lose them. So, climbing 6 flights of stairs rapidly can cause a lot of leg pain, especially if you haven't done it in a long time so we don't want to overdo it. We don't want to cause injury to our muscles so we want to do a little at a time until we can work up where we want to be. Um, if we haven't exercised in a long time, and we might have some slight injury, we always feel a little soreness, um, which is evidence of a little minor injury to our muscles. However, muscles can grow and maintain their strength only if we challenge them. So, again, you should always check with your physician before beginning any kind of weight training. Muscle training must be balanced to avoid both acute injuries and slow chronic damage that comes with maybe ignoring that pain and continuing to put stress on an injured joint.
Okay, so now we know how to optimize a little of that exercise if we’re not able to achieve our N.E.A.T score in the ways that the citizens do in the 5 blue zones. Um, and then we've talked a lot about blue zones and the daily lives of these citizens, but I wanted to give a different view. And, um, I know, and Buettner and his team did this research, and I wanted to get a little outside research and see what advice we could receive from that additional research on health and longevity. Let’s face it. Everyone wants both health and longevity, but the vast majority of people today do everything possible, not to achieve it. The detrimental effect on health that arises from behavioral and lifestyle choices including smoking, obesity, alcohol, lack of sleep, and lack of physical activity is well known but often ignored. The health of global societies is worsening. And this has reflected not only in the increasing prevalence of co-morbidities in the population, but also, and already registered shortened life spans. Aging is not in and of itself a disease. However, aging is the major risk factor for developing many chronic diseases. Furthermore, many diseases appear to accelerate our aging process, which is manifested as declines in functionality and reduced quality of life. So, the older we get, we're getting more diseases, and they are limiting our day to day activities and they are limiting our health and there are limiting our longevity.
One of the challenges is to develop a clear understanding of basic biology underlying changes that accompany aging as a distinction from the basic biology underlying disease. For example, when we have a cut or a wound, or maybe it's a bacterial infection, inflammation is an essential part of recovery. So, we have all those white blood cells that are going to jump at the area to help heal and we see the redness and the heat in that area that is actually our body in inflammation process to, to fight off or to heal our body. However, on the other side of that, if we're experiencing some low level chronic inflammation that just appears in our body and there's not really a disease process involved, that could be and contribute to the rate of progression of age related diseases or pathologies. Chronic inflammation may also contribute to frailty in ways that are independent of obvious disease. So, basically, what they're saying here is that even if we don't have those disease processes in place, if we're not healthy and moving around our body's going to encounter some inflammation. And that will then, in turn, cause those diseases and aging to happen prematurely. Another challenge is to take advantage of some of the most promising opportunities presented by research. A few recent discoveries offer possibilities for human, um, improved health in the aging population. For example, they talked about, um, extending lifespans that also extend health spans; the portion of lifespans spent in good health, suggesting that interventions can extend life can also reduce the burden of multiple diseases. A particularly promising avenue of research involved the cellular senescence. And senescence is when cells are damaged, um, they lose their function and this the ability to divide and replicate that continues to secrete molecules and they also damage their neighboring cells. So, it's kind of like misery loves company. Um, the researchers found that when they treated these cells with senolytics, which are compounds that actually remove those bad cells, that we see the aging process reversed. So, they are testing those senolytics in the, um, in the labs and not necessarily to reverse aging if you will, but to kind of give us an insight on how our body works. So that if we can keep those cells healthy, then, senescence does not occur. They’ve also found that clearing these senescent cells from the brain also can help with cognition and Alzheimer’s patients, but all that is still in the trial phase. But I thought that was very, very interesting. So, we do have some research to back up that exercise does help our longevity.
Longevity can be inherited across generations through epidemic changes. That is changes that affect gene behavior, but do not necessarily alter the underlying sequence of our DNA. This suggests that parental lifespan, and even parental behavior can influence the lifespans and health spans of the next generation through mechanisms other than genetics. So, we do get genetics we can pass down, you know, different possibilities of obtaining diabetes or heart conditions or, you know, just the trait to be overweight. But we, um, we can also prevent a lot of that with, um, with our daily lives and how we, how we live our lives and we can prolong that longevity. Not just through genetics but, you know, taking care of ourselves essentially. Exercise and physical activity are good for just about everyone, including older adults, no matter your health and physical abilities you can gain a lot by staying active. In fact, studies show that taking it easy is often risky. Inactivity is more to blame and age when older people lose the ability to do things on their own. Lack of physical activity can also lead to more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more use of medicines for a variety of illnesses. So, the key here is, we have to stay moving.
Staying active can also help you keep it, improve your strength so you can stay independent, have more energy to do the things you want to do, and reduce fatigue, improve your balance and lower risk of falls and injuries, manage and prevent some diseases like arthritis, heart disease stroke. Um, gosh, the list goes on. Sleep better at home, reduce levels of stress and anxiety, reach or maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of excessive weight gain, control your blood pressure, possibly improve or maintain some aspects of your cognitive function, and this would be your ability to shift quickly between tasks or planning activities. And last here is perk up your mood and reduce feelings of depression. So, being active can help us in so many ways.
So, we're going to conclude here and just talk about some final thoughts and wrap this altogether. We've learned that health is not necessarily health care. Health is an emergence of value from self-organization of its components and subsystems. Health has to be earned and sustained as a life without morbidities. It cannot be purchased. And longevity follows as a consequence of lifelong health. So, if we take care of ourselves, we will inheritor achieve that longevity, exercise and movement shouldn't be distinct from the rest of our lives. Something we slot in for a half an hour or an hour, a few times a week. Humans are made to move and integrating this into our lives by adopting a blue zones approach is a trendy. Words the height fitness, the blue zone way is not formal. Rather, it becomes part of the fabric of our lives. We simply move more, incorporating it into the way we live. Uh, so, blues on workouts don't require Jim, they don't cost money, or even require us to schedule exercise. And I just wanted you to think about different ideas before we close of things that you could do, or the changes that you could make in your life to increase your longevity. And I'll close with, um, final thought here research has shown that if we sit less and move more, we live longer. And I'm going to say that 1 more time research has shown that if we sit less and move more, we live longer If anybody has any questions feel free to reach out to 1 of the health educators, and we will be glad to answer any questions you have. And I wish you, well, and your endeavor for longevity. And I, thank you all for watching this presentation today.
Last Updated: 5/7/2021