Mantra for health & longevity

Look around and you’ll generally find that the next generation is taller than yours, and life spans have increased. Yet, a longer life is not necessarily better. Life expectancy has quite a bit to do with expectations of life. American writer Dan Buettner’s documentary Live to 100 is indeed a lesson in longevity. And his 263 centenarians are personifications of that. Moreover, as he explores the happiness-health habitat, we realise that life is profoundly simple. And simply profound.

In Buettner’s words: ‘There is no fountain of youth or magic pill that we can take to live long, healthy, happy lives. It takes many small changes to create an environment that curates healthy living. There are populations that have achieved the outcomes we’d like to emulate.’


Here is his nine-course nutritional spread

  • Consciously choose an active life. Your life is not mere existence. It is a movement. Make just-move-it your motto. Then, even more important, second it. This shifts potential energy to a kinetic force.
  • Believe that you were born for a purpose. You are special. Perhaps, you don’t know it. Tap your inner self. The answer, most often, lies within. Find your passion. And perhaps, you have found your eureka. Now, leap with it. Everyone, unknowingly, has a hole in himself; a void to fulfil. Life doesn’t suck. It just takes your breath away. Now, you have your vision. Voice it. Live it. Buettner says that ‘knowing your sense of purpose is worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.’
  • Stress stalks the street called modern life. He says: ‘What the world’s longest-lived people have that we don’t, are routines to shed that stress. Okinawans take a few moments each day to remember their ancestors. Adventists pray, Ikarians take a nap and Sardinians do happy hour.’
  • Most people ‘thank god for their daily bread. As do the Okinawans — with a qualification. They pray that they can stop eating when they are 80 per cent full. He adds, ‘The 20 per cent gap between not being hungry and feeling full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. People in the Blue Zone (regions in the world where people live longer than average) eat their smallest meal in the late afternoon or early evening and don’t eat for the rest of the day.’
  • Most centenarians go green. Their slant is towards plants. Red meat is measured in frequency and ­consumption — 8.5 to 11.5gm per plate and restricted to five times per month.
  • This might bring some cheer. Folks in all Blue Zones consume alcohol. Moderately, of course. In fact, moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers. Their elixir is confined to two glasses of wine daily and only in friendly company. Their happy hour? 5pm. A literal high tea!
  • Believers outnumbered non-­believers by an overwhelming 263:5. Buettner’s survey revealed that ‘the faithful who participated in such services four times a month added 4 to 14 years to their life expectancy.’
  • Most Indians would happily go along with this. Living with or near parents, grandparents, lowered health risks and mortality rates of the offspring too. Similarly, having a life partner added up to three years of life expectancy.
  • Buettner also found that those who networked with friendly/family groups that had either been born to or cultivated kith and kinships of their own kind reaped healthy benefits.


Go for green     

Let’s move to meals. The 80 per cent full stomach after a meal makes sense. For the stomach requires that space for digestive purposes. Lack of stomach space restricts the free flow of digestive juices and, in turn, creates acidic and other tummy-related problems. Balance your meals to optimise nutrition. Ensure you have enough green in your plate to accompany the protein-carb content.

Now, let’s head back to his buffet for the last course.

Form a group of like-minded people to maintain and motivate Buettner’s menu. This group will give your action plan, momentum and motivation when, and if you, slack or lack either or both.

If you are in a position to, encourage your staff/society to a healthier holistic lifestyle. Similarly, if you have a say in social, city, state or national affairs, create a society that moves physically. Example: Create walking and bikeable spaces in the city. If you can’t do that, like most of us, go vote for green in any and whichever way you can.


The parable of paradise

Buettner’s passage goes way beyond the exotic settings and apparent eccentricities of these golden oldies. His work is a literal back-to-the-future for mankind. It compels us to examine our existence as we stand at the current crossroads of change and continuity. To realise that and make peace with nature, man himself has to act more natural. For it is he who is the alien — not some imaginary creature from outer space. Yes, indeed, man is the villain of the piece/peace. Mother Earth has absorbed centuries of such environmental abuse from our species. Today’s man carries the cross of crisis for both his own and his forefathers’ ecological misconduct. He has to surrender to his surroundings and render assistance, repair his own life and life around him. The American’s lessons in longevity would be futile, if man carries on the way he has for so long. Global warming and the natural consequences of fire and weather storms, the meltdown at the earth’s polar ends and mountain tops have seemingly come to stay. Man has to run the extra environmental mile on earth’s treadmill just to stay still at his present place and maintain that position.

To run this gauntlet and then reverse the course of nature is not easy. But then again, life sometimes has no soft landings, no easy answers, nor comfortable solutions. Yet, somehow, some way, man, the fallen angel, has to rise to the occasion. And perhaps loft the earth itself back to paradise.

Buettner beckons. Set the Blue Zone tone. Finally, moderation may be the new modern mantra.

The writers are authors of Fitness
for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme


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