blue zone health living

Sardinia is one of the healthiest places in the world.

Experts say optimism, a purpose, a natural diet and an active lifestyle are three times as important as genetic makeup when determining how long you will live. For families moving abroad, the country you choose to move to can have a big impact on your health and general wellbeing.

Some countries, such as Australia, promote an active, outdoor lifestyle while others are well-known for their healthy diets (think Mediterranean nations). It’s not just about fresh food and enjoying regular hiking trips though, research has also shown interpersonal relationships play a part in living a healthy, long life. Areas where a good community spirit, emphasis on family life, and a laid-back pace still exist are great spots to boost your health when living abroad.

Scientists and researchers have identified “Blue Zones” which seemingly hold the keys to a long, healthy life. We take a look at some of the healthiest spots on the planet.

Sardinia, Italy

This autonomous island is the second largest in the Mediterranean Sea. Producing a large number of centenarians, the inland villages have attracted several research teams. The lifestyle is typically Mediterranean, with a diet to match. Lots of locally grown produce, including pecorino cheese made from goat’s milk which contains a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids. Meat is eaten sparingly.

Typically for Italy there is a strong emphasis on family, and children in particular are doted on by the whole community – great for expat families!

New Zealand

Relatively tricky to get to from North America and Europe, New Zealand still manages to attract its fair-share of expat families. Renowned for its beautiful scenery and outdoor lifestyle, New Zealand boasts the second longest life expectancy of any country in the southern hemisphere. Healthcare is free or subsidised and, perhaps due to its isolated position, much of the food consumed is grown or sourced within the country.

Nicoya, Costa Rica

The Nicoya peninsula on Costa Rica’s west coast is home to people who live much longer than Costa Rica’s average 79.8 years. Scientists studying the population of Nicoya found their diet, rich in high-fibre food, and the water, high in calcium, helped people stay healthy. Multiple generations tend to live together, providing a role for older family members in child-rearing, and offering advice.

The dry climate also stops food spoiling quickly and the sunshine means residents get a good dose of vitamin D.

Overall, all the countries mentioned in International Living’s roundup, and in the Blue Zone research have several things in common. A good diet consisting of fresh, local produce. Clean air, a moderate, sunny climate. and an outdoors lifestyle.

If you are considering moving with your family then a combination of all, or some of these factors, is sure to help you live a healthy, happy life abroad.

Image: Sardinia by Manuel Bierbauer (CC BY-SA 2.0)