Home health views Healthy Living Makeover: How 1 Man Changed a Town

Healthy Living Makeover: How 1 Man Changed a Town

written by Head Health Nutter February 25, 2010

Instead of forcing people to diet and exercise, Dan Buettner is inspiring people towards healthier lifestyles by changing their environment. The Vitality Project is an incredible concept and very promising for future generations!

Awhile back, we reported how Mr. Buettner was studying the world’s “blue zones”, places like Loma Linda, California, where people on a whole in the community lived similar lifestyles and had unusually long lives. Based on his studies, he wrote and published a book in 2008 called, “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest.”

One year later, Buettner decided to bring the health benefits he saw in these blue zones to middle America by partnering up with AARP magazine to start the Vitality Project.

Albert Lea, Minnesota, a town of 18,000 residents, signed up for the five month project and with some fairly subtle changes to the environment, they saw amazing results!

Almost 3,500 townsfolk participated. (Source: CBS) They got motivated, made friends, added a few years to their lives and had so much fun that they can’t stop! Read Dan’s article here in AARP magazine for testimonials and a more in-depth view on the project.

Some Results (Source: NewsWeek):

  • Participants lost an average of 2.6 pounds.
  • Boosted life expectancy by an average of 3.1 years.
  • Health-care claims for city & school employees fell for the first time in 10 years – by 32% over 10 months.
  • Residents uniformly reported feeling better physically and emotionally.

What were some of the environmental changes?

  • New sidewalks linking residential areas with schools and shopping centers.
  • They built a recreational path along the lake.
  • Dug new plots for community gardens.
  • Restaurants made healthy changes to their menus.
  • Schools stopped selling candy for fundraisers (instead they sold wreaths).
  • Schools banned eating in hallways (to reduce opportunities for kids to snack on junk food).
  • Participants selected from more than a dozen heart healthy changes to implement at home, such as trashing their super-sized dinner plates.
  • Community worksh0ps were formed to encourage more social engagements with one another.

Dan Buettner may have something here. Rather than try to persuade individual lifestyle changes, he changed the environment in little ways designed to help support and nurture healthier lifestyle habits.

What do you think of the Vitality Project? Would you support (financially, politically and personally) changes to public policy that enhance and encourage healthy living?

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