When it comes to longevity, daily movement is key. Just ask longevity expert and National Geographic fellow Dan Buettner: When he discovered the five Blue Zones where people live the longest and are the healthiest, he found that these individuals exercised significantly more than the average American. But they don’t have gym memberships or an affinity for marathons—rather, they’re fusing movement into their everyday lives.
“Take a careful look at their moment-to-moment, day-to-day lives, and they’re nudged into movement every 20 minutes or so,” Buettner says on the mindbodygreen podcast. That said, a “Blue Zones-inspired workout” doesn’t entail a specific circuit or 1-2-3 step routine; it’s about shaping your surroundings so that you’re constantly working the muscles. In terms of how to shape those surroundings? Buettner breaks it down below.
1. Keep a pair of shoes by your door.
“This is simple, but have a super comfortable pair of walking shoes and keep them by your door,” says Buettner. “That nudges you.” It may sound obvious, but sometimes that visual reminder can help you get up and go—and when it’s so easy to slip on your sneakers, you may do so more often.
2. Make a plan with a friend.
When you set up a plan, you instinctively make a social contract: If you ditch, you’re not only ditching the exercise itself—you’re ditching your friend. That’s why Buettner suggests finding a buddy you like to move with. “Agree on a schedule, and that buddy will nudge you,” he says. “If you say, ‘We’re going to walk every other day around the neighborhood,’ or, ‘We’re going to take a hike on the weekends,’ you don’t have to think about it. You’ve made the promise.”
3. Take walking meetings.
If you’re working from home, why not turn off your Zoom camera and take a moving meeting? Buettner certainly takes advantage of a walking work call: “I have a number of phone calls, and I just put my headphones in and I’ll walk for two hours,” he says. Multitasking at its finest, no?
4. Find what you love, and stick to it.
Perhaps the most important tip when it comes to a long-term movement routine: “If you love it, you’ll do it,” says Buettner. Meaning, don’t train for a marathon because you think that’s what you should do to stay fit—find the type of workout you actually like, and chances are you’ll maintain it.
So what’s Buettner’s workout of choice? “I love pickleball,” he notes. “I can pickleball for two hours, and I won’t even know that time went by. And I’ve elevated my heart rate, I’m using range of motion, [and] I’m developing lower body strength.” Choose your own adventure, here—Buettner loves pickleball, but you can opt for hiking, dancing, or whatever movement you gravitate towards.
The key is to cultivate a practice you genuinely enjoy; only then will it have true staying power. As Buettner notes, “When it comes to longevity, if it’s not something you’re going to do for decades, don’t waste your time.”
Those who live in Blue Zones are constantly moving—whether it’s harvesting the garden, kneading bread, or walking to a friend’s house for dinner. You may not have those exact same scenarios to go off, but that doesn’t mean you can’t infuse movement into your everyday life. It just may take a bit more intention.