Lessons for Living Longer 

Psychologist Paul Cameron once conducted a survey on sex, God and death, and found big differences in how different age groups thought about these “big questions”.


  • 18 to 25 year olds think about sex at least once every 10 minutes; middle aged people at least once every 35 minutes, and people over 65 once an hour.


  • Young adults think about God once every 25 minutes, middle aged people every 15 minutes and people over 65 every ten minutes.


  • Young adults think about death every 25 minutes, old people every 15 minutes.

The ‘Power Nine’ Principles
lessons for living longer

For most people it’s not just the idea of living longer that’s important, but ensuring we live longer with zest, enjoyment and minimum impairment.

To discover how to do that, journalist Dan Buettner travelled to communities around the world with a higher than average share of healthy centenarians.

The healthy elderly in Sardinia, Okinawa, Costa Rica, and Loma Linda (Seventh Day Adventists) in southern California shared life principles he boiled down to  the “Power Nine” in The Blue Zone, Lessons for living longer from the people who’ve live the longest (National Geographic).

He suggests you don’t try more than three at a time. Start with the three with the best chance of success, and then gradually add more.

Lesson No 1 Move Naturally

Be active without having to think about it…

You don’t need to run marathons or triathlons.

Male centenarians in Sardinia worked most of their lives as shepherds, involving miles of hiking every day. Okinawans garden for hours daily. Adventists take nature walks.

An ideal routine would be a combination of aerobic, balancing, and muscle strengthening activities. Dr Robert Butler* recommends exercising the core muscles at least twice a week. Yoga when done properly will increase balance.

Sustaining the effort is the key. Says Dr Robert Kane*: “You need to be a miler, not a sprinter. Overall goal is to get into the habit of doing at least 30 minutes (ideally 60 minutes) of exercise at least five times a week.

Lesson 2 Eat Less

Painlessly cut calories by 20 per cent by stopping eating before you are full

The secret of the Okinawans is ‘hara hachi bu’ – stop eating when your stomach is 80 per cent full. Okinawan’s daily calorie intake is 1900 calories, the Sardinian’s is 2000.

This simple but powerful practice may amount to a painless version of calorie restriction – associated in lab animals with prolonged life. A happy by product is you lose weight and losing just 10 per cent of your body weight helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

  • Serve small servings and put the food away before taking your plate to the table. You’ll eat 14 per cent less
  • Make food look bigger –  say take a quarter pound of hamburger and bulk up  on lettuce tomato and onion instead of half a pound of hamburger
  • Use smaller plates and long narrow glasses – it looks more and you’ll consume less
  • Keep snacking foods out of sight.
  • Eat slowly
  • Eat early – have your biggest meal at lunchtime.

Lesson 3 Plant Slant

Avoid meat and processed foods

In places like the communities in Sardinia and Okinawa, they eat small portions of unprocessed foods.

Beans, whole grains and garden vegetables are the cornerstones of all these longevity diets. Whole grains deliver fiber, antioxidants cholesterol reducers and clot blockers, plus essential minerals. Nuts may be the most impressive of longevity foods.

Eat four to six servings of vegetables a day

Showcase fruit and vegetables

Lesson 4 Red Wine

Drink red wine (in moderation). That adds up to a serving or two per day, no more.  A daily drink or two is associated with lower rates of heart disease, helps create an “event” and encourages you to eat more slowly.

Lessons 5 to 9 To Be Continued

*Dr Robert Butler is president and CEO of the International Longevity Center-USA and professor og geriatrics at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

*Dr Robert Kane is director of the Center on Aging and Minnesota Geriatric Education Center at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.