3 things I learned about longevity while visiting the Nicoya Peninsula of Costa Rica, one of the world’s Blue Zones

While traveling in the Blue Zone of the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica, I saw the local’s holistic approach to diet, exercise, work, and social life was the key to the region’s longevity.

I visited the Blue Zone of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula to learn about longevity.Residents of Blue Zones live long, healthy lives — and you can see why when observing local habits. I saw that while the keys to healthier living are simple, living by them takes intentional effort.

There’s more to see on the white sand beaches of Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula than the beautiful jungle coastline.

As one of the world’s original Blue Zones, residents there live longer, healthier lives than the global average. And while the keys to living that lifestyle are deeply ingrained in local culture, the habits that keep it alive aren’t always immediately clear.

If you look closely, as I did while visiting the Blue Zone last month — partly because of a wonderful work assignment but also because of a newfound obsession with wellness as I enter my 30s — you can glean lessons on longevity to take back home with you.

Here are three things I learned that I’ll be reminding myself of as I prioritize healthy living going forward:

It takes intention

In Costa Rica, a surge in tourism means a surge in various luxuries cropping up to provide outsiders with easy and familiar places to eat, shop, and relax. McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Pollolandia — a local fried chicken chain — have made it to the most remote corners of the Central American country.

Locals I spoke to said the Blue Zone lifestyle is real, but it’s fading. Instead of balanced meals of fruit and freshly caught fish, it’s quicker to pick up a burger at the fast food chain that moved in once the tourists did. Why get up at 4 a.m. to tend to your livestock and split wood to keep a fire going if you no longer need a farm and you’ve had electricity for years?

Maintaining a Blue Zone lifestyle in a modern-day world doesn’t happen automatically — it takes daily effort and intention.

Simpler is better

Watching how locals lived in the beach towns of Paquera, Tambor, and Montezuma showed me that wellness-centric habits don’t have to be complicated. No one I spoke to had elaborate gym routines or chlorophyll drops to add to their oat milk smoothies.

Instead, most everything was pared down to its most essential elements. The Blue Zone diet included fresh, whole foods, rarely prepared in any way more complicated than roasting; exercise was daily but rarely vigorous — like walking to the grocery store for ingredients rather than interval training.

A man and woman I spoke to had lived on the beach their whole lives, making their living selling coconuts. They were 64 and 68, kept remarkably young by their active work and limited-stress lifestyle. In speaking with them, it became clear that Blue Zone living makes wellness a routine built into daily life, and simple habits are best for that.

It’s holistic

In addition to being habitual, wellness in the Nicoya Peninsula was very clearly holistic. Locals approached longevity not just as a physical goal but as a mental and social one, as well.

Yes, they ate balanced meals and moved often, but another key element of wellness in Costa Rica was locals’ focus on their connection to their community. Multi-generational households are common, playgrounds for schoolchildren stay open past dark, and the many animals who share the environment are treated like neighbors, not adversaries.

Costa Rica’s unofficial national catchphrase, pura vida, meaning “pure life,” sums it up well: It’s about integrating and making the best of your whole life, not just parts of it.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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