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Long and healthy life, blue zone project Okinawa

The island of Okinawa lies south of mainland Japan. Because of its inhabitants, the island is "marked" as a blue zone and belongs to the so-called blue zones, which are characterized by the fact that the inhabitants live longer and are healthier on average. But it is the way of life and not the location itself that leads to this.

Okinawa temple entrance

On average, men live to be 84 years old and women 90 years old in Okinawa. This island also has the largest concentration of centenarians; persons who live to be 100 years or more. It is also surprising to discover that even the oldest inhabitants of the island are in surprisingly good psychophysical health, that they can live and function without any problems without additional help.


So what is their secret?

Basically, there is no secret, it is just a way of life and life principles that are almost innate to them and the three most famous principles are Ikigai , Moai and Hara Haci Bu , which we will try to explain in a simple way.


Ikigai

A simple translation would be "reason for life" or "meaning of life", which basically says almost everything, but Ikigai is a bit more complex to achieve or experience.

Elderly people who follow the Ikigai philosophy internalize this philosophy and have lived with it in all periods of their lives. At least one study has shown that people who have or find "meaning in life" have lower mortality and develop less cardiovascular disease. These people also develop a healthier lifestyle, are more motivated, flexible, which protects them from stress and burnout.

Ikigai philosophy is basically the intersection of four things:

  • what you love

  • what are you good at

  • what the world needs

  • what you can get paid for

Ikigai intersection of life

Ikigai, of course, must contain:

  • A challenge. You have to try to master it in order to live it,

  • Ikigai is your choice, it's not something forced upon you,

  • Ikigai requires dedication and discipline.


Moai

Moai refers to true (lifelong) friends, to a certain social circle of which you are a part. It can be a support group for self-help, financial assistance, medical or spiritual support.

The term Moai originated several centuries ago and originally meant the pooling of financial resources of the community or village into a common treasury, which were spent on social projects of the community (e.g. road construction). And even to the extent that an individual needed capital to buy land or provide supplies in an emergency, the only way was to pool money at the local level. Today, this "philosophy" has become more of a social support network, a cultural tradition for built-in companionship.

In small neighborhoods across Okinawa, friends "meet for a common purpose" to gossip, experience life, and share advice and even financial help when needed. They call these groups their Moai .

Traditionally, groups of about five young children were brought together and that's when they committed themselves to each other for life. As their second family, they would meet regularly with their Moai for work and play, pooling resources. Some Moai have lasted over 90 years!

You may not be able to have or create your own Moai in the strictest sense, but you should aim to have a close circle of friends and see each other regularly.


Hara Hachi Bu
Japanese meal Hara Hachi Bu

Compared to the aforementioned Ikigai and Moai , this is a rather simple "philosophy" that you can internalize already with your next meal.

Hara Haci Bu is a way of eating or of food consumption, which dictates that you eat until you are 80% full. With this restriction, you consume fewer calories, but still enough than the body requires. This mentality explains that the brain is 10 - 20 minutes behind the stomach, and so when we stop eating at 80%, we are actually quite full.

The average Okinawan who practices Hara Hachi Bu consumes 1,800 calories a day, while the average American consumes almost 2,500.

Of course, this way of life also requires dedication and discipline.


Not negligible

In addition to the three essential ways of life mentioned above, it is also important to note that their diet is based mainly on plant-based and rather diverse food.

Green and yellow vegetables predominate among vegetables. In addition to vegetables, their meals contain whole grains, tofu, fish and legumes. Meals are very low in sugar, meat, dairy and eggs.

In research (Sanjay Gupta and Craig Willcox, authors of the book "Okinawa Program"), it was found that the average Okinawan consumes seven different types of fruits and vegetables and eighteen different types of food daily. In general, the inhabitants there consume 200 different types of food and spices in their food cycle.

A vegetarian diet is naturally full of antioxidants, flavonoids, fiber, nutrients, and is naturally lower in calories and anti-inflammatory.


Physical activity is also very important, which does not mean that we have to run 10 kilometers a day or sweat every day in the gym. In Okinawa, physical activity is part of everyday tasks.

Almost all Okinawans actively walk and garden. Gardening is a daily activity that encourages movement and wide range of motion. In addition, their homes have very little furniture and they eat their meals sitting on tatami mats. Standing up and sitting on the floor increases flexibility and strength.

Two elderly Japanese people are walking around Okinawa

Due to the island's climate and active lifestyle, residents are exposed to the sun and thus vitamin D throughout the year. People with low levels of vitamin D – a hormone our skin makes with the help of sunlight – have significantly higher rates of almost every disease and disorder you can think of.


That's it!

These are just some of the "secrets" of the people of Okinawa (Okinawa's blue zone)) how to live a long and healthy life, which are not exactly secrets, but rather logical life decisions for which you need order and strict discipline.

The remaining blue zones are Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Icario (Greece) and Lomo Lindo (California, USA). If you ever visit these places, observe the locals and their lifestyle, talk to them, imitate them. They may reveal to you some long-neglected wisdom that may be closer to you than the one described above.



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