FRANKLIN, Tenn., Feb. 7, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Connections matter. Expanding your social circle to include healthy-minded and supportive people might be one of the most significant ways to add happy and quality years to your life. Belonging to the "right tribe" -- that is to say, a group of positive, encouraging friends — can change and improve a person's lifestyle, at least according to some of the world's longest living people.
That's no secret for Blue Zones Project®, a community well-being improvement initiative designed to help people lead longer, better lives by making healthy choices easier. In Blue Zones Project communities, of which there are now 37 throughout the country, the concept of finding the Right Tribe is one of nine keys to greater longevity. Called the Power 9, these principles are proven to support longevity, and are based on lifestyles in pockets of the world called Blue Zones®, where people are most likely to reach age 100 and beyond with lower rates of chronic diseases and increased quality of life.
Blue Zones Project encourages individuals to adopt Power 9 behaviors into their daily life. The initiative then helps communities support those healthy behaviors by working with grocery stores, restaurants, schools, faith-based organizations, employers, and urban planning departments.
Research shows friends provide more than good times, memories, and companionship; they also share health habits and other traits. If your friends are smokers, unhappy, or obese, you are more likely to adopt or continue these traits. You are three times as likely to be overweight if your three closest friends are overweight, according to a 2007 article in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Blue Zones Project uses Moais® (pronounced "mow-eyes") to encourage the formation of new, healthy friendships and improve well-being. The notion of Moai, which roughly means "meeting for a common purpose," originated as a means of social, emotional, and financial support in one of the original Blue Zones areas, Okinawa, Japan. These friendship "safety nets" provide the security of knowing that there is always someone there to celebrate good times and offer support through difficult times.
Today, the idea of Moai has expanded to represent an overall social support network. In Blue Zones Project communities, this concept and other environmental changes have demonstrated tremendous success.
BEACH CITIES, CALIFORNIA
In California's "Beach Cities" --a certified Blue Zones Community® made up of the three cities of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach--a Right Tribe focus is part of an overall effort to nudge residents to healthier behaviors and support those behaviors where people live, work, and play. Since implementing Blue Zones Project in 2010, the Beach Cities noted a 9 percent drop in significant daily stress--as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®.
The community, where Blue Zones Project efforts are led by Beach Cities Health District, boasts 2,000 Moai participants, who gather socially in groups to walk, find purpose, and enjoy potlucks. One group is the OceanWalkers, which launched in 2010 and continues to add new members while retaining most of its original walkers.
OceanWalkers member Irwin Brand joined the Moai in 2011. "I am sure my health has improved as a result of walking at least 16 miles per week. However, what has been even more important is the fact that my wife and I have met a group of great people," 88-year-old Brand said. "It's not just exercise; it's finding out what our friends did over the weekend or what movies they saw, or meeting their sons or daughters who occasionally join us."
FORT WORTH, TEXAS
The "right tribe" movement is also alive and walking in Fort Worth, Texas, a Blue Zones Project demonstration site that officially kicked off efforts in 2015. After engaging restaurants, worksites, grocers, schools, and individuals in the initiative, the city reported gains in its overall well-being score. The most recent Well-Being Index showed an increase of 2.6 points, from 58.8 percent in 2014 to 61.4 percent in 2016. Texas Health Resources, a leading regional healthcare provider, worked with city leaders and the Chamber of Commerce to bring the project to Fort Worth.
In one case, an entire neighborhood joined the Right Tribe efforts--with the people of White Lake Hills building close bonds through a variety of Walking and Potluck Moais. One group, called the 7 a.m. Walkers, consists of women who did not really know each other prior to beginning daily walks. They now rely on each other for emotional support and even travel together. The right tribe concept is expanding throughout the neighborhood to engage older, isolated residents.
"Before we started taking part in Blue Zones Project, White Lake Hills was split between elderly, original homeowners and newer families. Our Moais became a bridge between those groups," said Linda Fulmer, a resident who helped coordinate efforts. "Good relationships are central to well-being, and there's no doubt we've improved our health and happiness."
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, 37 communities in nine states have joined Blue Zones Project, impacting more than 2.2 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 Southwest Florida, Hawaii, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Blue Zones Project is a division of Healthways, a Sharecare company. For more information, visit www.bluezonesproject.com.
Media Contact: Gigi Westerman, 817-672-5799
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SOURCE Blue Zones Project