How to Live to 100: Nine Habits Shared by the World’s Longest Living People

They’re known as the “Blue Zones,” areas around the world with the highest concentrations of centenarians (people who live 100+ years). They include parts of Japan, Mexico, Greece, Italy, Costa Rica, and even Southern California.


n 2005, author Dan Buettner launched a research project seeking to learn the longevity secrets of these vibrant cultures which culminated in the 2008 publication of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. Although I haven’t read the book, Beuttner’s research has been well documented. His work is a fascinating summary of what makes the world’s healthiest people so healthy.

Despite the fact that people live longer today than ever before, lets face it, most of us know very few people who make it even close to 100, much less any full fledged centenarians. Yet Beuttner ‘s work features people like Francesca Castillo of Costa Rica, who, at 100 years old, still cuts her own wood and clears brush from her yard with a machete.

What sets them apart? Is it purely genetics, or are there specific practices we can identify and adopt to help us increase our own life spans?  Here are nine habits which, according to Beuttner, centenarians throughout the world’s  Blue Zones all share:

(1)  Walk…a lot. This reminds me of the recent best selling book, “Eat, Sleep, Move” by Tom Rath,  who pointed out that sitting more than six hours a day is the most underrated public health problem in America.  According to Beuttner, “Blue Zoners” walk practically all day, not because they necessarily want to, but because most of them don’t own a car. While that’s not an option for most people, (something that, in my line of work, I’m grateful for!) Beuttner recommends finding a place to live that favors activity and connectivity.

(2) Don’t Retire…Refocus. Blue Zoners all share a deep sense of purpose for their lives. They greet each day with a compelling reason to live. The traditional notion of retirement simply doesn’t exist in their vocabulary.

(3) Find a de-stressing ritual. Although faced with the same worries we all have, they deal with stress through a variety of daily rituals, such as spending time with friends.

(4) Follow the 80 Percent Rule. In the age of super-size portions, centenarians only until they are 80 percent full.

(5) Eat lots of vegetables In the Blue Zones, the least expensive and most popular dishes are plant based. Most eat limited amounts of meat and very little refined sugar and carbohydrates.

(6) Drink a little wine Contrary to popular belief, centenarians, by and large, are not teetotalers, although most drink limited amounts and wine is the drink of choice.

(7) Cultivate strong friendships Blue Zoners are found to have a core group of life long friends who provide stability, intimacy, and support.

(8) Be Part of a Community There is a strong sense of belonging in Blue Zones, a deep-seated cultural expectation of people caring for one another, often centered around religious faith.

(9) Stay Married According to Beuttner, a positive, committed  relationship adds at least six years to life expectancy.

Here’s a question: What would it mean to the quality of your life–and the strength of your personal brand–if you had the physical, mental, and spiritual capacity to live 100+ years? Also, which of these nine habits resonate the  most with you? Which ones challenge you? I’d love to get your feedback!

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    6 Responses to How to Live to 100: Nine Habits Shared by the World’s Longest Living People

    1. Phil Gronda October 25, 2013 at 8:29 am #

      Thank you

      All nine are great habits and it’s never to late to start or maintain any of them!


      • Bill Marsh Jr October 25, 2013 at 11:25 am #

        Thanks for sharing, Phil. They certainly are inspiring to me. Speaking of never too late to start, John Wooden, the great college basketball coach who authored numerous books and articles after he retired from coaching, wrote his best selling books after he turned 90!

    2. Skip October 25, 2013 at 8:46 am #

      Great piece Bill, I believe the last 3 may be the most important even if we don’t live any longer we will live more joyously and more fulfilled

    3. Bill Marsh Jr October 25, 2013 at 11:21 am #

      Thanks for your insightful comment, Skip. The lives of these centenarians tell us it’s the simple things in life that bring us the most joy…and keep us going for a long time!

    4. Kevin W. McCarthy October 27, 2013 at 4:58 am #

      Hi Bill,

      I’ve met Dan, scanned the book, and done some research on the whole concept because I’ve always planned to live to be 100 or more. I guess I feel like I’ve got lots to get done and I’ll need the time.

      In a presentation I saw him give, Dan places “Purpose” as the foundation of healthy which certainly perked up my ears. It makes sense; people who have a reason to live will more likely orient their lives to living. Ask a surgeon, a patient with a purpose is more like to recover faster and better. In Dr. Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning he observed fellow prisoners in a Nazi concentration that purpose and meaning was essential to survival.

      The Nine Habits you cite above are all great tactics, but the underlying strategy is to know one’s purpose and then those habits will come much easier. Thanks for your posting.

      Be On-Purpose!
      Kevin W. McCarthy
      Author, The On-Purpose Person

      • Bill Marsh Jr October 27, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

        I completely agree, Kevin. As someone who has profited immensely from reading your book four years ago (my purpose is “Inspiring Growth”), I sensed the same underlying theme in the “best practices” I derived from Dan’s work.

        It is truly an honor that an author of such an important work would take the time to comment on my personal blog!


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