Over the past weekend I spent my “off” hours with the best of the best in our world of Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition (SCAN). The Dietetic Practice Group’s 2012 Symposium took place in the Baltimore Inner Harbor this year, a convenient one hour drive north of my doorstep.
I’m already looking forward to the 2013 event in Chicago, so there’s an indication that this was a well-planned symposium! Due to a recently added role in my job description, I now fully understand and respect the work that goes into putting something like this together. Kudos to the Dietitians & team behind this!
That said, Saturday morning’s Keynote speaker was, without question, the most enlightening session of the weekend. Dan Buettner, New York Times Best-selling author and National Geographic Fellow, brought us into The Blue Zones.
Image source, www.bluezones.com
Dan took us to three different cities that are full of independent centenarians – people 100 years and older, still going about daily life on their own and without a hitch. These communities are not only thriving among the elderly, but the young, growing and gracefully aging alike. We traveled to Italy, Japan and the lesser known town of Loma Linda, California in the Moreno Valley. Dan shared what he learned from each of these areas, gaining years of quality life in their own unique ways.
Did you know that our average life expectancy in the USA is around 80 years for men, and 75 years for women? This number varies by state and county.
We haven’t quite climbed our way to the top on this one, yet. Dan is working on that.
I won’t go into all the details here, they’re Dan’s to divulge. But, I’m sure you could scratch your head and come up with a few things that these centenarians are doing right – staying active, eating relatively healthy, avoiding Big Macs and large sodas altogether, and playing the good-genes card. And I’m sure there are some of you who have no interest in living to be 100 years old; live in the moment, now, and if you get another year, then there’s another 365 days you get to use for adventure!
Either way, it’s intriguing to think we could be alive for more than 36,500 days and still have the physical and mental capacity to live. One thing that stood out among all of these communities was what Dan referred to as the key to change – the environment.
Could you walk (or run) to/from places, if you wanted to? Is it safe? Is it physically possible – are there joining sidewalks, side streets, public transportation, etc? Could you ride a bike?
We drive to get our groceries every weekend; it’s not entirely necessary. That trip could be split in two, and we could easy utilize our feet & public transportation to get to and from.
Do you have healthy eating options available – quality grocery store produce options, or farmer’s markets, and/or local farms to support through a CSA? Do restaurants in your city or town make an effort to serve normal portions, and/or healthier entrees?
DC has this trend on lockdown; we’re no Portland(ia), but Farmer’s markets are aplenty and our CSA membership kicks in May 15!
Does your social network have an interest in health? Habits are contagious, whether they’re yours or someone else’s.
Do you feel a sense of purpose, with whatever it is you’re passionate about? Do friends of yours feed their interests, whether through work or play? My friend Ivan keeps up a photography habit, and we all benefit from seeing his work. My sister-in-law likes to quilt, and we all get amazing homemade gifts from her hands. I like to run & be social, so I convince others to join me in the act.
Dan spoke to a room full of Nutrition experts, health professionals and wellness enthusiasts. His audience knows all of the right things to do, and yet we were completely captivated by his presence, knowledge, attitude and drive. On a large scale, we work towards the health of this nation; on a small scale we make sure we prioritize the same things for ourselves.
How do you think your zone measures up?
Blue, green, or an alarming red?
If you could change something your, or your community’s, environment, what’s your first step?