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In the early 2000s, 2 researchers wanted to know why people who live the longest tend to come from certain concentrations of communities around the world. As they found these clusters, they would draw a circle around them, and the area inside became known as Blue Zones.

In collaboration with the National Institute on Aging, Dan Buettner surveyed these longevity hotspots to identify common traits. The Blue Zones Project® by Healthways, born from this effort, is a communitywide well-being improvement initiative. It uses permanent, evidence-based environmental and policy changes to encourage healthier lifestyles.

The goal is to make healthy choices the easy choices by creating more walkable, bikeable, and socially engaged communities. Healthways and Blue Zones have built many strategies to improve well-being; though not all will apply, a community must pledge to implement the most relevant to participate. Blueprint planning is then done by a team of citizens and leaders.

Communities mobilize schools, worksites, grocery stores, and restaurants to focus activities on key principles in these Blue Zones called Power 9®:

  1. Move Naturally: Encourage environments that constantly nudge people to be active.
  2. Know Your Purpose: Explore the most meaningful values, passions, gifts, and talents, then put those skills into action.
  3. Down Shift: Find a stress-relieving strategy that works and make it a routine.
  4. 80% Rule: Focus on removing parts of everyday diets and eating routines.
  5. Plant Slant: Consume only small amounts of meat on rare occasions — eat a diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes.
  6. Wine @ 5: Have wine in moderation — 2 glasses a day for men and 1 glass for women.
  7. Right Tribe: Associate proactively with the right friends who practice healthy lifestyles.
  8. Community: Connect with a faith-based spiritual belief system.
  9. Loved Ones First: Make family and personal relationships a high priority.

To achieve this designation, 25% or more of employees must sign the Blue Zones Personal Pledge®. The worksite needs to earn at least 72 out of 109 possible points by implementing pledge actions from these pillars of well-being:

  • Leadership
  • Purpose
  • Habitat/physical environment
  • Engagement/creation of social networks
  • Policies and benefits
  • Well-being solutions.
Pledges have points assigned relative to their importance. As an example, the Leadership pillar includes:

  • Communicate aggregate well-being metrics to all employees annually (3 points)
  • Support an employee-led well-being advisory committee that meets at least 4 times/year (3 points)
  • Offer all employees a personality assessment to support communication between management and employees (3 points)
  • Train leaders to encourage the use of walking and/or standing meetings (2 points).

At this writing, 20 locations around the country have been named Blue Zones Project demonstration communities in Minnesota, California, Florida, Texas, Hawaii, and Iowa. Others are actively exploring this designation. For more information, visit Blue Zones Project FAQs.

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