If you haven't heard of the Blue Zones I highly recommend going and checking out my blog post "So, have you ever heard of the Blue Zones?"
It gives a fabulous overview and background and while I do cover the patterns in that blog each of the blogs in this series will go more in-depth.
Now the Blue Zones are classified by a higher than average number of thriving centenarians. So when these patterns were being researched the researchers were only focusing on the citizens who were 100 years of age or older.
So when we talk about physical activity we aren't talking about hitting the weights at the gym, even though that one great way to exercise.
They do a lot more natural movement in their day.
For instance, in Sardinia in the early 1900s, most of the men were shepherd's which required them to be on their feet and walking for most of their days.
We know how important physical activity. I know you've heard this so many times. But I am not here to tell you that you need to get a gym membership and go to the gym all the time.
I am a firm believer that we are the experts of our own bodies. I have been told more times than I can count that if you have gut issues then it means XYZ and you have to do XYZ to make it stop and then low and behold, it doesn't stop. Or something like "If you do cardio of course you're not losing weight. Enough cardio, you should solely do weights" and then when I only do weights I'm miserable, less motivated, and slower on the field hockey pitch.
I will give you a great background but it is up to you to decide what, when, where, and how you're going to do it.
As a side note: Just because you don't like something or don't want to do something, doesn't mean your body isn't asking for it. Remember that 😉
Something we see in the Blue Zones (and I've chatted about this before) is consistent movement. They don't hit the gym for an hour and then go home and not move.
As mentioned above in Sardinia most of the men were shepherds. They'd be walking 21+ km's per day. Not particularly fast or intense although sometimes required to lift sheep when necessary.
In other Blue Zones such as Okinawa, it's common to tend a garden. Many fished or did labour-intensive jobs.
The key here is that it's not about doing so much you overwork your body it's about doing more than just a 20-30 minute workout program and then putting your feet up and not moving until the next day. It's about sustained and consistent movement.
I try to incorporate movement throughout my day. I only have one really big workout but I try to move the rest of the day. So I have a morning walk, an afternoon movement break, throw some yoga in there sometime during the day, and an evening workout (either the gym or a home workout).
Getting an afternoon movement break isn't hard. I can even do that sitting at my desk. I've looked up desk workouts or couch workouts and they're great. You can even do them at the office.
Gym's and workouts haven't always existed. Back in the day (when our centenarians were young people) they didn't have dumbbells, machines, or push-ups, they simply had their own bodies. So everything they did was functional.
Something you see in every Blue Zone is walking. Recently, studies have shown that walking a minimum of 2 hours per week can actually increase your longevity (help you live longer) and reduce your risk of disease.
Our bodies were made to move, made to walk. We have 2 legs we can stand upright with and all typically developing people learn to walk. For those who cannot walk there are other ways to improve cardiovascular strength. It's important to get the heart rate up and working. When we work our heart it becomes a healthy heart that can withstand more.
I'm not saying don't go to the gym (I got to the gym) but try to also include more functional movement in your day, in other words, movements that are based on real-world biomechanics. Things that we would naturally do or that would help us do natural movements better with less pain.
I know some people who only strength train, some people who only run, etc. But something I learned as a Physical Literacy instructor was that since we have a variety of body parts and systems we need to learn and execute a variety of movements.
It's highly recommended for children to do multi-sport programs when they're below the age of 12-14. When they become sport-specific too early it can hinder their athletic performance, cause them to struggle with movement overall, and result in injury. Believe it or not, even Olympic athletes can tell you they played more than one sport growing up. Just ask Wayne Gretzky. He has a fabulous quote about it,
"I played everything. I played lacrosse, baseball, soccer, track and field. I was a big believer that you played hockey in the winter and when the season was over you hung up your skates and played something else."
I believe as an adult it is just as important to get a variety of movements in for much of the same reasons. We strive for "Active For Life" we can only do that when we are getting a variety of movements. It keeps all areas of our body strong and helps prevent injury and the older we get the more time it takes to recover from injury and the less time it takes for our muscles to atrophy.
Exercise is so important for overall health. When we exercise it gets the blood pumping to our brain and has been shown to help reduce symptoms of mental health. It can help aid in digestion and metabolism. It can provide a great social environment. It can provide you with a sense of purpose.
Do you see the connections to the other Blue Zones patterns? That's because when we take care of all the systems the other systems automatically function better.
The secret to health isn't one thing, it's all the things put together.
Come back next week to learn about the next pattern!
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