I decided to start my exploration of the Blue Zones by focusing on the first of his nine lifestyle habits: move naturally. After all, even though HIIT classes, sprinting, and weightlifting increase endorphins, people in the Blue Zones don’t rely on gyms, weightlifting, or sprinting. Instead, they move their bodies as our ancestors did: in the garden, at home, and on casual walks around town, with as few technological advances as possible.
As someone who loves routine, I decided that I would adopt a Blue Zones exercise regimen while maintaining my regular exercise program. (Old habits die hard, okay?) Still, I found that my body and mind responded positively to the inclusion of simpler, more grounded exercises.
Adopt a Blue Zones exercise regimen
For physical activity, people in the Blue Zones plant gardens, take care of their landscapes, do manual labor, and do a lot of walking. As such, and considering that I recently moved into my first house with its own yard, rather than hire a maintenance crew to take care of it, I decided to take care of it.
And instead of letting my pup, Cash, play in the backyard instead of proper walks, I’d do at least one (but preferably two) mile walks a day. Also, since I already had a trip scheduled, and knowing that my dad and his girlfriend love to walk, I thought walking instead of Ubering (for the most part) around New Orleans would be a great way to embody exercise even more. of the Blue Zones. habits
I had a few tasks I wanted to take on that fit perfectly with the Blue Zones ideals, as they required bending, squatting, lifting, and sweating to complete. In my front yard, I have a butterfly bush surrounded by a large bed that is prone to weeds, as well as a larger bed filled with a variety of wildflowers. I also noticed that an angry-looking red shaggy vine with oddly shaped leaves was growing behind one of my front hedges, and was beginning to rear its head.
Now keep in mind that I know next to nothing about plants and gardening, so I’ve always liked to hire someone else to do that for me. But with Blue Zones in mind and with a genuine desire to develop knowledge in the category, I downloaded PictureThis (an amazing app that lets you take photos of plants, which it can then diagnose in seconds) and got to work.
Surprisingly, the red vine was not some sort of poisonous plant that you couldn’t touch, so I put on a pair of gloves and started rooting it out. In the process, I discovered that it was nestled along almost the entire length of the bush, so I had to crawl and twist behind it to dig it out. Once done, it was satisfying to say the least. Weeds were much easier to remove, only requiring constant kneeling and squatting while doing so.
In my backyard, I have a patio within a patio that we refer to as “The Poop Deck,” a place where Cash can do his business without littering the entire yard with landmines. The problem was when I moved in, this area was unkempt and overgrown. But knowing that a company was coming to fertilize the lawn, I thought it was the perfect time to start the project. (Fortunately, my parents helped me). To get it the look it needed, I had to trim a tree, weed the entire 15 square foot area, and cover it with 22 bags of mulch (which my nephew and I carried and around the front entrance). It was scorching and I was dripping with sweat, but the end result was worth it.
Since rescuing Cash in February 2021, I have made it a point to take him for regular walks. While I’m usually pretty good at doing at least one a day, I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when deadlines and/or weather made the daily output take a backseat. However, knowing that people in the Blue Zones thrive on regular walks, I decided to really prioritize our neighborhood excursions for the past month.
Personally, I find that taking regular morning and evening walks helps create a calm and positive frame of mind, which has been very beneficial in both improving my morning performance and relaxing me at the end of the day. And it turns out that it’s not only good for me, but also for Cash. While a single one-mile walk a day noticeably curbs his internal energy, two-mile walks make him as tame as can be, which is great considering he’s an 11-pound Jack Russell-Chihuahua with a, let’s just say fighting side.
Walking wasn’t just cool at home, either. My dad and his girlfriend and I loved walking around New Orleans. We stayed in the Arts District and walked miles between there, the French Quarter, and the Garden District. In all, we walked about 10 miles (in sneakers and sandals) in one weekend. While that’s not the greatest, as an Uber lover, it’s definitely more than I would normally walk through an unfamiliar city without a subway. (Obviously, every time I travel to New York or other metro areas, the miles really add up, which means that in a few weeks, I’ll be able to put my Blue Zones habit into practice as I visit Hoboken, New Jersey, and the city of New York).
And that’s all there was. With those few adjustments, I began to understand the magic of living as someone in the Blue Zones.
The most important lessons from my Blue Zones exercise experiment
While many health and fitness trends are challenging or misleading, Blue Zone lifestyle habits, particularly moving naturally, are all about simplifying routines and getting back to basics so that the body and mind prosper. And I can attest to how good I felt while exercising like the oldest people in the world. So much so, in fact, that I plan to keep it going.
However, don’t just take my word for it. Board-certified family medicine doctor Laura Purdy, MD, says living (and moving) like those in the Blue Zones may be the secret to unlocking your best health. “There are several benefits to the Blue Zones lifestyle,” Dr. Purdy tells me. “For example, these parts of the world are known to have a lower incidence of obesity and heart disease. It makes sense that leading a moderately active lifestyle is a great way to prevent obesity and all of its co-morbidities, including heart disease,” she says.
Another example is that as the body ages, says Dr. Purdy, the more active a person is and the more they use their muscles, the better quality of life they will have. “Exercise protects against arthritis, and building muscular strength and endurance helps prevent incidents like falls and frailty,” he adds.
Additionally, Dr. Purdy notes that adopting a Blue Zones lifestyle and exercise regimen leads to a less sedentary life overall, because instead of moving for an hour or so a day (as many people do when to gyms and fitness studios only), Blue Zone residents incorporate movement throughout the day.
“I think this is part of the reason why people in these parts of the world, for free, live to be 100 years old or more: They keep their bodies and minds active and engaged,” explains Dr. Purdy. “Furthermore, these cultures benefit from these lifestyle choices in the sense that children of future generations may have a model of what a healthy lifestyle of eating in moderation and exercising frequently but not intentionally looks like. . So unlike what we see here in the US and in other cultures, where the rate of obesity is rising rapidly, these cultures show a trend toward longevity and health.”
So there you have it. By all means, keep sweating it the way you like best, but maybe give it a few walks and a little time to tend to the earth under your feet while you’re at it.