Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; and Sardinia, Italy.
Those five seemingly unconnected cities across the globe are called Blue Zones.
The people who live there, according to research, live longer, are healthier and lead overall happier lives. It’s exciting to hear the Fayette County Healthy Living Coalition wants us to join them.
Plans are in the works to turn Fayette, where residents hold the undesirable distinction of being the second least healthy county in the state, into a Blue Zone Community.
The buy in isn’t cheap — Fayette officials said a program assessment is $50,000 — but the payoff could be immeasurable, impacting generations to come.
It’s something we can get behind, especially in light of a report that notes 41% of our county residents over the age of 20 are obese.
Blue Zone Communities are the brainchild of author and educator Dan Buettner, who looked at different areas around the world where the average life expectancy was higher than normal. He studied the commonalities among them to come up with those things he believed led to longer lives.
One of the major similarities was increased natural movement — simple things like walking instead of driving or using stairs instead of an elevator. Diet also played a part, he found, noting that people who lived longer ate more fruits and vegetables and less meat. Lifestyle differences were a factor too, with those in the initially identified blue zones volunteering more, surrounding themselves with good people, focusing on loved ones and relaxing.
Buettner’s research acknowledged genetics, but found our internal hardwiring only accounts for about 20% of overall life expectancy. The remainder, he found, is influenced by lifestyle choices.
Several areas in the U.S. have signed on to become Blue Zone Communities, including some in Hawaii.
While many envision Hawaii as paradise, the Ogden-owned Maui News reported in 2016 that about one-quarter of its residents were obese.
The project kicked off there in 2017, and over the years grew to include several communities and over 100 sites that offer residents ways to make easy changes to live longer lives. Reporters at the paper have written dozens of articles chronicling the programs — ranging from cooking classes to a walking school bus where area children in close proximity to their school walked there daily.
While the latter might not work during Fayette County’s cold winter season, the project has also seen success elsewhere it’s been implemented in the United States.
In Albert Lea, Minnesota, residents added a projected 2.9 years to their lives and have increased their active living by 40%. Several beach-area communities in California have come on board, dropping their smoking and obesity rates to half the national average, the Blue Zone website reported.
We applaud the Fayette County Healthy Living Coalition for recognizing things have to change — not just for residents now, but for generations to come.
We love that they’re dreaming big.
Most of all, we are excited that they’re looking back to our community to help fund the project.
While they can seek grants to become part of the Blue Zone Project, coalition leaders recognize that positive change requires community commitment. They’re asking state and local leaders, businesses, schools and other organizations to commit funding toward the $50,000 assessment.
We hope they are successful in getting the money necessary to move forward and begin the process of changing Fayette’s negative health rankings.
The gift of living better should be one we all want for ourselves and those around us.