4 fun ways to boost longevity, according to SuperAgers who live in Blue Zones — including enjoying carbs and slacking off

  • You can live longer by doing things you enjoy, according to a longevity expert.

  • SuperAgers make a habit of dancing, enjoying carb-rich foods, and relaxing.

  • Even so-called vices like drinking wine may be healthy in the right context.

Living a long, healthy life isn't just about forcing yourself to eat broccoli, take mountains of supplements, or spend hours on the treadmill.

Some of the most powerful ways to extend your lifespan are also a blast, according to National Geographic explorer and bestselling author Dan Buettner.

Buettner has pioneered research into areas known as Blue Zones where people have a much higher rate of living to 100, including regions of Japan, Italy, and Costa Rica, and shares their best advice in an upcoming book (releasing August 29) and Netflix docuseries (out August 30).

"I think what Blue Zones teach us is that longevity can be joyous. It doesn't have to be a chore," he said in the series.

He found that people who are active and vibrant into their 80s, 90s, and even past 100 years old have habits like enjoying a glass of wine, taking it easy at work, and hitting the dance floor, and there may be good reason for you to do the same.

Drinking wine in moderation may be net positive for health

Despite hopeful headlines suggesting red wine may be a wellness drink, an overwhelming amount of research concludes that alcohol is bad for our health overall.

But Buettner found that SuperAgers in Ikaria, Greece regularly indulge in wine and continue to age just as well as their beloved beverage.

As a result, he makes a case that both context and quality matter when it comes to enjoying wine in a healthy way.

Buettner learned that wine produced with traditional methods, without added chemicals, contains trace amounts of essential minerals like potassium and iron. It's also packed with antioxidants linked to lower risk of illnesses like heart disease.

"This is nearly like drinking a supplement," he said.

It's worth noting that some evidence indicates no amount of alcohol is safe, and many experts have said that if you don't drink, you shouldn't start doing so for the health benefits.

However, if you do like to imbibe, it's possible that the benefits of socializing, stress relief, and an antioxidant boost could help offset the risk, especially if you choose high-quality, natural varieties of wine.

"For me, that's enough of a connection to allow me to enjoy my glass of wine at the end of the night," Buettner said.

wine
Wine is controversial in the health world, but may be beneficial in the right context. Klaus Vedfelt/GETTY IMAGES

Eat more carbs, including honey, sweet potatoes, and whole grains

The long-lived residents of Ikaria aren't just drinking wine, though — they're combining it with the hefty serving of some of the healthiest foods on the planet by enjoying a glass of wine as part of a Mediterranean diet.

Blue Zones diets are chock full of carbohydrates from whole grains, beans, and veggies.

There's even room for dessert when you're eating for longevity. Ikarians routinely enjoy raw, unprocessed honey as part of their regular diet, which may have health benefits like lower cholesterol.

And it's not just Greece that relies on carbs to fuel a long life. Foods like purple sweet potatoes are a staple of the longevity diet in the Blue Zone of Okinawa, Japan.

a close-up of a man holding a forkful of pasta
Carb-rich foods, including whole grains, pasta, beans, and starchy veggies, are staples in Blue Zones.skynesher/Getty Images

Dancing is a great form of exercise 

Another common feature of Blue Zone residents is that they get plenty of exercise, but may never need a gym.

Multiple Blue Zones, including Nicoya, Costa Rica, as well as Ikaria in Greece, have strong cultures of regular gatherings that feature dancing as a main event

In terms of the benefits for heart health, dancing is linked to significantly lower risk of heart disease, according to Harvard Health.

As a result, the Greeks getting their groove on at traditional events known as panegyris are onto something.

"They are dancing all night long. And you might say 'big deal, they're at a party,'" Buettner said. "Actually, an hour of running or an hour of dancing are about equal when it comes to caloric burn. But an hour of dancing is a blast."

a group of friends celebrating happy hour with a round of beer
Treating yourself to happy hour with friends can be healthy, according to some of the longest-living people on earth. The Good Brigade/Getty Images

Blue Zones research supports clocking out early for your health 

All the partying, sipping wine, and eating delicious food in the SuperAger routine may seem like a lot of effort, but don't be fooled — they're also big fans of taking it easy at work, Buettner discovered.

Superagers practice a longevity-boosting form of quiet quitting, doing the minimum at work to make more time for things you enjoy, like family, friends, and even happy hour.

"People would never do a couple of extra hours of work when they could be enjoying their family, or taking a siesta, or interacting with their friends," Buettner said.

In Sardinia, Italy, residents routinely finish work with plenty of time to meet friends and family for a happy hour glass of wine.

For other Blue Zones like Nicoya, Costa Rica, it's common to focus on work for a few hours in the morning before taking an afternoon nap or siesta.

It's all part of the shared value in Blue Zones of slowing down to enjoy life, which helps them to reduce stress even as they stay productive, active, and social well into their later years.

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