Integrating Blue Zones Concepts in Health Clubs

Jason Beck, M.D., member of IHRSA’s Medical, Science, and Health Advisory Council, examines the concept of Blue Zones and how they can be applied to the fitness industry.

Dan Buettner, New York Times bestselling author and National Geographic Fellow, has spent much of his career studying the locations in the world where people live the longest, happiest, and healthiest lives. In 2008, he published The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. This book outlined the nine common attributes of these “Blue Zones.”

The health club industry is uniquely positioned to educate and demonstrate these Blue Zone concepts to help their members live longer, happier, healthier lives. The nine common attributes of the Blue Zones are as follows: move naturally, sense of purpose, downshift to reduce stress, eat until you are 80% full, plant slant nutrition, wine at 5 with friends, right tribe, loved ones first, and belonging to a group. A full description of each of these attributes can be found

I will touch on some of these concepts that could be incorporated into the health club environment.

Natural Movement

The concept of natural movement is to design your environment so that movement comes naturally rather than being forced. In the health club atmosphere, this could be accomplished by designing group classes and spaces that naturally draw people in without them feeling like they “have to go workout.” Examples might be group dance classes or fun competitions for all ages either on a court, in the pool, or the CrossFit box.

CBI feature man yoga unsplash column

Clubs even have the opportunity to provide space for meetings held while walking or casually spinning allowing work meetings to be invigorating rather than something to endure. Simply stated, building the environment to make natural movement easy.

Daily Routines that Reduce Stress

Because stress leads to chronic inflammation, associated with every major age-related disease, it is an important factor to address. Offering meditation classes, group stretching, yoga, and Pilates are all great ways to encourage members to take some time in their day to reduce stress.

Plant Slant and the 80% Rule

There is so much confusion and misinformation circulating in this day and age about nutrition, but there are a couple of concepts that most can agree on. As paraphrased from food author Michael Pollen: eat real food, not too much, mostly plants. Some clubs have the opportunity to provide meals to their members allowing them to effectively press the easy button on nutritious health-promoting food.

CBI feature jason beck friends volleyball unsplash column

The potential for education is also a key opportunity in this area. Offering classes or organizing teams of members who provide support to one another along the healthy eating continuum can be crucial to members' success in attaining their health goals.

Downshift, Wine at 5, Belonging, and Right Tribe

These concepts could all be incorporated together by providing social opportunities for members to commune together, possibly combining an after-work movement session with an opportunity to downshift afterward by belonging to a group that comes together around a common interest, which could be a particular fitness activity, nutrition, or other commonality.

As a board-certified Lifestyle Medicine Physician applying these Blue Zones concepts, I see patients make amazing shifts toward a longer, healthier, happier life. Clubs that can help members engage in these concepts will not only strengthen themselves in the market but provide an invaluable service to their members.

Author avatar

Jason Beck

Jason Beck, M.D., is a founding and managing partner at Arkansas Specialty Radiology. As co-owner and medical director of onsite imaging solutions, Beck was instrumental in combining and developing technologies to revolutionize the way healthcare was delivered in the mobile imaging industry. He has consulted with numerous companies to develop state-of-the-art technology platforms.