A story from Pierce County Executive, Bruce Dammeier.
You may have heard that the month of August is “Walk Everywhere Month” in Pierce County. I’ve used that declaration as inspiration to walk more myself.
I don’t know that I’ll win any prizes from the Pierce Trips Walk Everywhere Challenge, but it couldn’t hurt! And, to be honest, walking more will help me a lot.
Replacing some of the places I drive with a walk will help manage stress, improve my fitness, and even save money. This week I walked to meetings I would have previously driven to, and even strolled to the site where I regularly donate blood.
Walking is a great way to really see a community and this summer’s weather in another incentive to get outside. And if we’ve learned anything over the last year and a half, we know that being in good health may spare you the most devastating impacts of the COVID virus.
Going for a walk is an easy way to improve and extend your quality of life. That’s one of the many insights I’ve gleaned from a book I’ve been enjoying. Years ago, Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times bestselling author, set out to study five locations around the world where the residents lived well past 100 years of age (Okinawa, Japan; Ikaria, Greece; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and the Nicola Peninsula, Costa Rica). He called these locations “blue zones” and wrote the landmark book, The Blue Zones.
What Buettner learned was distilled into what he calls the “Power 9” – or traits of people who live in these Blue Zones:
- Move naturally – the Sardinians walk an average of 5 miles a day!
- Purpose – have a meaningful motivation for your work and life (that’s easy for County employees!)
- Down shift – manage stress effectively
- 80% rule – eat to satisfaction level, not fullness, and end early in the day
- Plant slant – beans are the cornerstone of Blue Zone communities and meat is eaten only 3 – 4 times per month
- Wine @5 – moderate drinkers live longer than those who completely abstain
- Belong – having a faith tradition was a common trait of Blue Zone residents
- Loved ones first – prioritize those you love
- Right tribe – surround yourself with good influences and people who share your commitment to a healthy lifestyle
These traits reflect both healthier habits and a strong connection to community.
The Blue Zone philosophy has been taken to many communities across the country – I first heard about Blue Zones at a national meeting of County Executives a few years ago. There’s even one in Walla Walla – with great, measurable improvements in their residents’ wellbeing and health.
In Pierce County, MultiCare and CHI Franciscan are partnering with us to take a look at the program for our region. To that end, a community summit will be held at PLU on Monday, September 27 at 6:30 p.m. You can learn more about the evening and register for the event here.
I look forward to exploring ways to create better health for our residents.
For now, these traits are challenging me to think about how I can make my life a little healthier, better manage stress, and stay connected to my community.
Thanks for reading and go take a walk!
Blue Zones…what a wonderful idea! Whatever we can do to improve our health is a plus.
Little did I know that I already practice some of these philosophies. I am a walker…I go out most mornings rain or shine for a 3-4 mile walk. With my other daily activities, I’m sure I reach the 5 mile mark. I have a very strong faith! I rarely eat meat and I don’t drink, but it looks like maybe I should try a glass of wine now and then. I retired after 30 years of working with and for children in public schools, and, believe me, that was very meaningful and satisfying work. I have a very loving family and wonderful friends that I spend time with on a regular basis. I do need to down shift and learn better strategies for managing stress….as I’m sure most people do nowadays. And I’m 82 years old, so I must be doing something right.
The Blue Zone philosophy, as you pointed out, is a proven winner. Whatever steps each of us takes to stay healthy benefits the entire community. Let’s make this happen in Pierce County.
Thank you for sharing this story, and for all the resources included. I’m looking forward to checking out some of the new areas for walking that are listed in the “Walk Everywhere Challenge.”