I decided to begin my Blue Zone exploration by tapping into the first of their nine lifestyle habits: moving naturally. After all, like endorphin-boosting HIIT classes, sprints and heavy lifting, Blue Zone people don’t rely on gyms, weightlifting or fast runs. Instead, they move their bodies like our ancestors did—in gardens, homes, and casual walks around town, with as few technological advances as possible.
As someone who likes routine, I decided that I would adopt a Blue Zone exercise regimen in addition to maintaining my regular fitness schedule. (Old habits die hard, right?) Still, I found that my body and my mind responded positively to the incorporation of simpler, more grounded workouts.
Adopt a blue zone exercise regimen
For physical activity, people in the Blue Zone plant gardens, tend to their landscapes, do manual labor, and walk a lot. As such—and considering I recently moved into my first home with its own yard—instead of hiring a maintenance crew, I decided to take it on myself.
And instead of letting my puppy, Cash, play in the backyard on a proper walk, I’ll go on at least one (but preferably two) mile-long walk every day. Additionally, since I already had a trip on the schedule — and knew that my dad and his girlfriend love to walk — I thought walking instead of Ubering around New Orleans would be a great way to incorporate more Blue Zone exercise into the habit.
I had a few jobs that I wanted to take care to fit perfectly into the Blue Zone ideal, as they required bending, squatting, lifting and sweating to complete. In my front yard, I have a butterfly bush surrounded by a large weed-prone bed, as well as a large bed filled with a variety of wildflowers. I also noticed an angry looking red hairy vine with oddly shaped leaves growing behind one of the hedges in front of me and starting to poke its head out.
Now, mind you, I know nothing about plants and gardening, which is why I’ve always been cool with hiring someone else to deal with it. But with the Blue Zone in mind, and wanting to develop real category knowledge, I downloaded PictureThis (an incredible app that lets you take pictures of plants, which it can identify in seconds) and got to work.
Surprisingly, the red vine wasn’t some kind of poisonous, don’t touch plant, so I put on a pair of gloves and started pulling it out. In the process, I found that it had nested along almost the entire length of the bush, so I had to crawl behind it to find it. Once done, it was satisfying to say the least. Weeding was much easier, requiring only constant kneeling while doing so.
In my backyard, I have a yard within a yard that we refer to as “The Poop Deck”—a place where cash can do its business without littering the entire yard with landmines. The problem was when I moved in, the area was untidy and overgrown. But knowing I had a company approaching me to fertilize the grass, I thought it was the perfect time to take on the project. (Thankfully, my parents helped.) To give it the outline it needed, I had to trim a tree, weed the entire 15-ish square foot area, and cover it with 22 bags of mulch (which my nephew and I carried). and around from the front driveway). It was burning, and I was dripping with sweat, but the end result was good, well worth it.
Since rescuing Cash in February 2021, I have made it a point to walk him regularly. While I’m usually pretty good about getting at least one run per day, I’d be lying if I said that deadlines and/or weather put daily outings back. Knowing that people in the Blue Zone regularly stop for walks, though, I’ve decided to really prioritize our jaunts around the neighborhood over the past month.
Personally, I find that regular morning and evening walks help create a calm, positive mood, which is extremely beneficial to my morning performance and to falling asleep at the end of the day. And it turns out, it’s not just good for me but for the cash. While walking just one mile a day significantly saps his inner strength, a two-mile walk makes him just as flexible as can be—which is great considering he’s an 11-pound Jack Russell-Chihuahua with, let’s just say, the feisty side.
The walk wasn’t just great at home, either. My dad, his girlfriend and I loved walking around New Orleans. We stayed in the Arts District and from there, walked the mile between the French Quarter and the Garden District. All in all, we walked about 10 miles (in sneakers and sandals) over the weekend. While it’s not the most, as an Uber-lover, it’s definitely more than I’d ever get around an unknown, non-subway city. (Of course, whenever I travel to New York or other metropolitan areas, the miles really pile up—meaning that in a few weeks, I’ll be able to work my Blue Zones habit further while visiting Hoboken, New Jersey, and NYC.)
And that was all it was. With these few adjustments, I began to understand the magic of living like someone in the Blue Zone.
The biggest lesson from my Blue Zone exercise experiment
While many health and fitness trends are challenging or gimmicky, Blue Zones lifestyle practices—moving naturally, in particular—are all about simplifying routines and getting back to basics in ways that enrich the body and mind. And I for one can attest to how great I felt while acting like the world’s longest living man. So much so, in fact, that I plan to keep doing it.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Board-certified family medicine physician, Laura Purdy, MD, says living in (and moving) Blue Zones may be the secret to unlocking your optimal health. “The Blue Zones lifestyle has several benefits,” Dr. Purdy told me. “For example, these parts of the world are known to have a low incidence of obesity and heart disease. It makes sense that living a moderately active lifestyle is a great way to prevent obesity and all its comorbidities, including heart disease,” she says.
Another example is that as the body ages, Dr. Purdy says, the more active someone is and the more they use their muscles, the higher their quality of life. “Exercise is protective for arthritis, and building muscle strength and endurance helps prevent events like falls and frailty,” he adds.
What’s more, Dr. Purdy points out that adopting a blue zone workout regimen and lifestyle leads to a less sedentary life overall, because instead of moving for an hour or more each day (as many people do when only committing to gyms and fitness studios .), Blue Zone residents move throughout their day.
“I believe that’s part of the reason people in this part of the world—for free—live to be 100 or older: they keep their bodies and their minds active and engaged,” Dr. Purdy explains. “Furthermore, these cultures benefit from these lifestyle choices in that future generations of children are able to model what a healthy lifestyle of eating moderately and exercising frequently, but not intentionally, looks like. So unlike what we see here in the United States and in other cultures, where obesity rates are rising rapidly, these cultures show a trend toward longevity and health.”
So there you have it. By all means, keep sweating the way you love the most, but while you’re at it, maybe take a few walks and lean into the ground beneath your feet.