Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 26, 2014

Public shares ideas about Blue Zones

By ANDY HALLMAN | Feb 21, 2013
Tuesday’s Blue Zones meeting required plenty of audience participation, including physical exercise. Diana Fleischman showed the group how easy getting fit could be by demonstrating exercises on and around a chair.

A group of about 20 people met Tuesday night at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center to kickstart Fairfield’s quest to be a Blue Zone-certified city.

The purpose of the meeting was to introduce the Blue Zones concept to the general public. After that, the public was invited to suggest ideas for making Fairfield a healthier city. A Blue Zones steering committee known as the “Power Nine” will incorporate those ideas into the blueprint it’s planning to write by April 1.

The meeting began with a video that gave the audience an idea of what Blue Zones is all about. The phrase “blue zones” was coined by documentarian Dan Buettner. Buettner identified certain communities around the globe where the population routinely reaches 100 years of age, and dubbed these locales “blue zones.” He and a team of scientists visited those places to find out why the people lived so long.

Buettner boiled down those communities’ secrets for long life to nine specific characteristics, according to the website bluezones.com. Buettner wrote about the blue zones in a cover story for National Geographic in 2005 and wrote a book about them in 2008.

After the video, the head of the Power Nine steering committee, Ken Daley, explained the nine characteristics to the audience. He told them to make daily physical activity part of their everyday life so that they move without even thinking about it. He mentioned that Loma Linda, Calif., one of the blue zones, was well known for the importance its residents place on walking everywhere they go.

Other characteristics Daley mentioned were working less and taking vacations, eating more vegetables and less meat and processed foods, eating until one is 80 percent full and drinking a glass of red wine each day.

Daley spoke about the importance of mental well being to longevity. He said a healthy social network characterized all of the Blue Zones. He said the populations in the Blue Zones are noteworthy for regularly attending religious services. He said people do not need to attend a formal religious service, but it is important that they have a network of friends and they feel they belong somewhere.

Daley said he is often asked why Fairfield should become a Blue Zone. He said some people think there must be money behind it. He said that was not the purpose of making Fairfield a Blue Zone. He said improving health and fitness in the town was not a means to an end but rather the goal of the whole project.

Betsy Howland was one of the attendees at Tuesday’s meeting. She attended the meeting because, “I want to live longer.”

Howland is especially interested in making restaurants healthier. Howland owns a restaurant in Fairfield, and she spends six hours a week trying to bring her restaurant up to Blue Zones’ standards.

“We have to have the right fat ratio in the menu and worry about the amount of sodium in things,” she said.

Marie-Helene Tourenne grew up in France and shared some French wisdom that pertains to health.

“Walking is important in France,” she said. “I go there twice a year. I walk or ride my bike to the grocery store. People don’t take their car for a short trip. Walking is part of the culture.”

Tourenne said the French tend to eat the large meal of the day at lunch instead of in the evening. She believed this allows the French to burn off calories after their large meal, leading to improved fitness.

Several members of the audience talked about their desire to start a small group dedicated to fitness known as a “moai.” The word is Japanese and refers to a network of people who support each other in some task. Attendees said they could create “walking moais” or “biking moais” or moais that meet for racquetball or golf.

Tuesday’s meeting was the first of two public input meetings this week. The second is Saturday from 9:30 - 11 a.m. in the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.

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