FRANKLIN, Tenn., Dec. 28, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- The start of a new year always brings lofty resolutions to mend our ways and lead a healthier life. But promises to start a dramatic new diet or go to the gym every day often prove unrealistic, and many are doomed to fail. Blue Zones Project®, a community-by-community well-being improvement initiative that is sweeping the country, offers a more realistic path to achieving a healthy outlook in 2017.
"The problem with traditional diet and exercise programs is that they require discipline and routine—both of which go against human nature and our evolutionary design," said National Geographic Fellow and Blue Zones Project founder Dan Buettner in "The Blue Zones Solution." "Of 100 people who start a diet today, fewer than five will still be on the diet two years later."
Buettner founded Blue Zones Project to "reverse engineer" society to support healthy behaviors after identifying best practices from areas of the world, called Blue Zones®, where people live longer, with less chronic disease. In places like Sardinia, Italy, and Ikaria, Greece, healthy behaviors—like moving naturally, eating until 80 percent full, and focusing on a primarily plant-based diet—are tenets of daily life.
Blue Zones Project calls these easy-to-adopt, life-changing principles the Power 9, and they go well beyond diet and exercise. Best practices from the world's longest living people also include identifying a sense of purpose, associating with people who support healthy behaviors, and regularly practicing your faith.
"Anyone can add years to their life and life to their years, by adopting these simple, life-affirming steps," Buettner said.
In fact, in 31 cities throughout the country, Blue Zones Project is helping create that path to greater longevity. The initiative works to transform the built environment—the places we live, work, pray, and play—to support individual efforts to make healthy choices and incorporate the Power 9 into daily life. Restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and worksites are joining the movement. That includes things like highlighting healthy menu items; offering Blue Zones Project checkout lanes with water, nuts, and fruit instead of soda, candy, and chips; rearranging student cafeteria lines to offer healthy items first; and providing a way for employees to reduce stress and move naturally during the work day. City leaders also are addressing street design to encourage walking and cycling, and adopting ordinances to allow greater access to fresh produce through community gardens and mobile fresh markets.
The effort is paying off in Hawaii, which launched Blue Zones Project in three communities in 2015. To date, more than 200 organizations and 4,000 individuals are on board throughout Hawaii. East Hawaii resident Theresa Zendejas was overweight and in danger of developing diabetes when she attended a Blue Zones Project kickoff meeting in October 2015. Daily activities had become difficult. When her community joined the movement, she decided she needed to make some changes in her own life too.
At age 82, Zendejas started a garden to grow her own fruits and vegetables, joined a Walking Moai to begin to move naturally, and attended a Purpose Workshop to find more meaning in her life. In less than a year, she lost more than 40 pounds and stopped diabetes in its tracks. She even motivated her family to join her journey, and as a result her son lost 35 pounds and her husband lost 19.
"I'm a twin and my twin sister died at 59 years of age," Zendejas said. "I wish she were still alive. But I have completely changed my way of living. This is the best thing that has ever happened to me."
BEACH CITIES, CALIFORNIA
The Beach Cities of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach recently became a certified Blue Zones Community®, and the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® shows a dramatic increase in community well-being. The three California communities collectively earned the highest 2015 Well-Being Index score (65.9) in the United States, outpacing all 190 metropolitan areas measured. That benefits residents like Arnette Travis, from Redondo Beach, who transformed her life after learning about the movement. Travis had spent years working in a home office, which provided flexibility and freedom, but little in the way of human interaction. Influenced by the environmental changes all around her, Travis adopted Blue Zones Project's Power 9 principles, surrounded herself with people who encouraged and supported a healthy lifestyle, and quit a 40-year tobacco habit. She began volunteering at community events and gained a newfound sense of purpose.
"You can't put a dollar sign beside everything or everyone. This is nowhere truer than in the universe of volunteerism," Travis said. "As a volunteer, I know my time is valued, appreciated, and more than anything, warranted."
To learn more about Blue Zones Project or the Power 9, go to www.bluezonesproject.com.
About Blue Zones Project
Blue Zones Project® is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to a city's environment, policy, and social networks. Established in 2010, Blue Zones Project is inspired by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author who identified five regions of the world—or Blue Zones®—with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or older. Blue Zones Project incorporates Buettner's findings and works with cities to implement policies and programs that will move a community toward optimal health and well-being. Currently, 31 communities in eight states have joined Blue Zones Project, impacting more than 2 million Americans. The movement includes three beach cities in California; 15 cities in Iowa; Albert Lea, Minnesota; the city of Fort Worth; and communities in Hawaii, Southwest Florida, Wisconsin, and Oregon. Blue Zones Project is a division of Healthways, a Sharecare company. For more information, visit www.bluezonesproject.com.
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SOURCE Blue Zones Project