Tag Archives: healthy aging

Finding the Blue Zones

Blue Zones are made up of specific people in this world who have discovered a worthwhile formula for healthy aging.  Blue Zones are comprised of five areas in the world where people live the longest.

Man and woman embracing on the back deck of a boat with water and mountains in the background.
Francesca and I enjoying our time in Capri, getting ready for a “Blue Zone” style dinner on the island.

The archipelago of Okinawa, Japan, known as the “Land of Immortals” is a Blue Zone. The small island of Ikaria, Greece, is another, as is Sardinia in the Mediterranean nicknamed “Place Where People Live the Longest in the World.” The Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica and the Southern California city of Loma Linda, which is home to a high number of Seventh Day Adventists, also made the Blue Zones list.

Blue Zones and the healthy communities that come with them shouldn’t be a secret. It’s a sustainable approach to living that should be spreading across the world. But instead, data is showing that people spend more time alone as they age, not getting enough of the social interaction that can bring meaning to our lives.

Spending time alone

This is certainly true in the United States where a recent report showed a spike upward in time spent alone after the age of 40, the age where we generally seem to be most engaged with our partners, family, friends, and colleagues. The data shows that when people reach the age of 80 the balance of their time spent alone in minutes per day far outstrips their time spent with others.

This has me thinking about how we might bridge this gap and circumvent the loneliness and despair that many world citizens encounter each day. It’s too easy in our 21st century cultures for people to zap their lives and miss out on the meaningful human interaction that we need to sustain us as we rush around trying to experience as much as possible. This takes a toll, and it can lead to more time spent alone, simply because we probably aren’t creating enough of the social bonds that can make a life truly worth living.

So what can you do?

You don’t have to live in the Blue Zones to lead a lifestyle inspired by them. In fact, it’s the elegant simplicity of Blue Zone living that we should be adopting. And you don’t have to go “all in” to get started. Because you might already be living in ways that coincide with this philosophy without realizing it.

For instance, exercise does not have to be an intense pursuit of constantly pushing yourself to get stronger, faster, or better. Instead, tending to your backyard garden coupled with extended walks and other simple activities is how you can move naturally and reap the benefits. Adopting a Blue Zones exercise regime is quite simple and rewarding. It’s why the daily walks I take with Francesca literally keep me on my toes and thinking about how to live healthier with every step I take. It comes naturally.

Here are more simple steps you can take to lead a lifestyle inspired by the Blue Zones:

Know your Purpose

Man playing golf with ocean shoreline in the background.
Enjoying the fresh air while playing a round of golf in Corsica.

Having purpose in your life has been shown to help you live longer. Find what you are passionate about and lean into becoming a better you each day. Maybe it’s a hobby, or a spiritual commitment that brings meaning into your life? Whatever it might be, don’t be apathetic. Find your why for living a healthy life. 

Eat healthy meals with family and friends

Make mealtime not only about the healthy food, but also about connecting with those you care about. This is your daily opportunity to support those around you simply by being present. Listen to your loved ones and share your wisdom and advice with them when they need your counsel. 

Get enough sleep

Your life will run more smoothly if you get at least eight hours of sleep each night. Those who sleep six hours or less are also less happy. It stands to reason. Create rituals before bed to prepare you for rest. And enjoy your wake up time, and the coffee that comes with it, if you like to enjoy a morning cup.

Get out every day

Get outside and be active every day. If the sun is shining, it can brighten your outlook. And even if it’s raining, you can find beauty and peacefulness in the drops falling from the sky. So grab your umbrella and go.  

Get involved in your community

Join like-minded people in your community. Volunteer for a cause you believe in or simply look for your tribe of people who are working to make positive impact. By improving the community, you are making the whole world a better place for everyone. What could be more enriching than that?




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Fit for Life

Crossing the finish line at the 1990 New York and 1996 Boston marathons. For decades, I enjoyed training for and competing in marathons, first by myself and later with Francesca. Today, some of our favorite activities include hiking, walking and playing golf.
Crossing the finish line at the 1990 New York and 1996 Boston marathons. For decades, I enjoyed training for and competing in marathons, first by myself and later with Francesca. Today, some of our favorite activities include hiking, walking and playing golf.

I think we all know the benefits of exercise. It’s like a magic elixir that wipes away stress, boosts mood, improves sleep and generally enhances all aspect of living. For me, exercise has always been part of my life. In fact, I couldn’t imagine not doing it. 

Adapting my exercise routine over the decades

Over the decades, my exercise routine has changed. For much of my adult life, one of my favorite activities was running, and I was always eager to compete in a marathon whether for a good cause or just for fun. Running fit well into my lifestyle. All I needed was a good pair of shoes and a pair of shorts. I could run just about anywhere, whether I was at home or traveling. But as I’ve aged, my knee joints have been less forgiving of the intense training needed for long-distance running.

So, I adapted.

Today, I start my day with a Pilates routine. During the day, Francesca and I get in a couple of walking or hiking sessions. (She’s been busy getting in over 10,000 steps a day). We generally walk once in the morning and then again in the afternoon. It feels great to be out in the fresh air, while being mindful to keep physically distant from others who are doing the same.

Francesca and me on a nature trail. Hiking is a great way to stay active at any age. Telluride, Colo., June 2020.
Francesca and me on a nature trail. Hiking is a great way to stay active at any age. Telluride, Colo., June 2020.

The serious benefits of moving just a little more

Increasing your activity level doesn’t have to be a Herculean effort. If you’re conjuring up images of lifting heavy weights in a sweaty gym or jogging mile after mile around a track or spending hours on long, grueling cycling rides, relax! The “no pain, no gain” philosophy is old news. Current research confirms that you can improve overall health and fitness when you move just a little more in your daily life.

It’s that simple.

Just aim to move a little more today than you did yesterday.Plus, increasing your activity as you go about your day is a great way to ease into more structured physical activities such as walking, jogging, swimming, resistance training or stretching.

Going from good to better

While increasing your daily activity is a good start, you may be inspired to do more. If so, you may want to know that fitness experts typically recommend most adults get regular physical activity throughout the week. 

If you prefer moderate-intensity activity like brisk walking, the experts recommend you aim for 30 to 60 minutes, five times each week. “Brisk” walking means you can talk comfortably, but can’t sing. If you prefer vigorous activity such as jogging or running, aim for 75 to 150 minutes a week.

Of course, you can always do a combination of moderate and vigorous activities. It’s all a matter of preference. 

Don’t forget to include some muscle-building activities that involve all major muscle groups. Experts recommend you aim for at least moderate intensity activities at least two days a week.1 

My choice? Pilates, every morning.

Simply solutions to fit exercise into any busy day

It seems we’re all busy and getting busier. But a hectic schedule doesn’t have to stop you from getting enough exercise. The way to fit exercise into an already busy day is to make it a priority. When you do this, you’ll be amazed at how your exercise routine will then fall into place.

Need some inspiration to get started? Here are six surefire ways to fit exercise into any busy lifestyle.

  1. Exercise in small chunks of time. Squeeze 15 minutes of exercise in before work and another 15 minutes later in the day. Even these small amounts of physical activity add up over the course of the day.
  2. Embrace more physical activity throughout your daily routine. Try parking your car at the far end of a parking lot or a few blocks from your destination. Walk rather than drive whenever possible. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  3. Do two things at once. Watch television and stretch. Walk and talk business. Read and cycle on the stationary bicycle.
  4. Gardening and housework can be great exercise. Turn on some music and dance your way to a cleaner home and neater yard! Be creative and think how to turn some of your tasks into a workout.
  5. Schedule your exercise. Just like an appointment, schedule in your exercise time and, more importantly, keep it.
  6. Find an activity you enjoy. There is a much greater chance that you will make time for activity when it’s something you like. Brisk walking, jogging, swimming, tennis, biking, hiking, yoga and tai chi are a few great choices. Explore and find activities that you really enjoy. Then, make them a regular part of your life. You will be glad you did.

Of course, my morning isn’t complete without my Pilates routine. You can check out my routine here, including the kneeling clam (#15 in my routine). It’s my favorite stretch. Most people don’t do it, but it is really important to help loosen up the psoas muscle—a deep seated core muscle that connects the torso with the leg. 

Here’s to the best of health.

I’ll be cheering you on!

Dr. Sam Signature

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  1. Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd ed. Department of Health & Humans Services, 2018. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf.