Living "In the Zone" - the Nicoya Peninsula Blue Zone


Is it possible to live longer by just moving to Costa Rica’s Nicoya Peninsula? One of only five BLUE ZONE on the planet. It might be, if one learns the lessons for living longer from the people in this area who have lived the longest.

Costa Ricas Blue Zone

The Nicoya Peninsula, home to the Liberia International airport and where people live measurably longer lives, often exceeding 100 years. Researchers have identified a group of villages on the peninsula (an 80-mile long finger of land on the Pacific Coast) with a significantly higher rate of longevity than the rest of Costa Rica—and the world, for that matter. They are Santa Cruz, Hojancha, Carillo, Nandayure, and Nicoya.

Do you have to move to, say, Hojancha to live longer? Can you still enjoy a longer life expectancy living in a condo in Playas del Coco, or an ocean view home in Playa Hermosa, just a few miles north of the Blue Zone?

Here is what you can do to have some of the benefits of living in the Blue Zone. I should take my own advice:

Get plenty of sunshine. Regular sun exposure helps your body produce vitamin D for strong bones and healthy body function. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a host of problems, such as osteoporosis and heart disease. Laying out on the beach all day is too much, and really here the sun is strong you may end up looking like a lobster, however. A healthy amount of sunshine is about 15 minutes on the legs and arms each day. That’s a very easy one to do.

Walk everywhere. Regular, low-intensity physical activity is a must for longevity. Walking, bicycling, gardening, cooking, keeping up the house, taking care of animals and looking after children, etc., has been a big part of the daily routine for these people during their entire life. Well that’s good I fit a lot of these, but I hope not to live to 100 HAHA!

Persons walking in Costa Rica

Do hard work. Centenarians here have done physical work all their lives. They find joy in everyday chores instead of viewing them as, well, chores or hiring someone else to do them. Guilt here that’s what I do, unfortunately. They say they ‘keep the same schedule as the chickens,’ rising early (5 a.m.) and “roosting” after the sun goes down, around 7 p.m.

Older man working the fields in Costa Rica

Eat rice, beans and tortillas. Their diet is mostly plant-based with the occasional addition of a small portion of meat. Rice, beans, corn (in the form of handmade tortillas) and green vegetables are staples of their diet. It has been said that the combination of corn (maize) and beans may be the best nutritional combination for longevity the world has ever known. Also, rich, colorful fruits are readily available and high in vitamins and antioxidants. This one is Perfect for me I love all those foods and eat them all most of the time.

Plate of food known as a "Casado" in Costa Rica

Eat the same thing every day. The Nicoyan diet is very repetitive: Gallo Pinto (rice and beans combined) with sour cream or an egg for breakfast; rice and beans with a bit of protein and vegetables for lunch; a tortilla with homemade cheese or a slice of avocado at coffee time. Every single day. Studies show you are less likely to overeat if your diet is repetitive. The reason is obvious: Why overeat at lunch when you just had the same thing in the morning and you will have the same thing tomorrow for lunch? Variety may be overrated but I need variety in my diet! I love all these things but certainly love other foods as well. Give me a big fat hamburger every once and a while, PLEASE!

Person making home made tortillas in Costa Rica

Have a sense of purpose. These centenarians usually live with their children and grandchildren where support is mutual. They help clean and cook and take care of the animals and children, and in turn receive physical and financial support. They have a “plan de vida”—a purpose in life—that gives them a reason to live and gives them a positive outlook on life.

Elderly woman cooking tortillas in Costa Rica

Have an offline social network. Social networks seem to play an important role in longevity. Nicoyan centenarians get frequent visits from neighbors and, in turn, visit others. They know how to listen, laugh, and appreciate what they have. Key Point is offline, so consider stop reading this and have a talk face to face with a real person. You may actually like it.

Older womain in Costa Rica's Blue Zone

Drink the water! Nicoyan water percolates through limestone and is very high in calcium and magnesium, perhaps explaining the lower rates of heart disease as well as stronger bones and fewer hip fractures. I get asked this all the time, “ can you drink the water” with a big smile I always answer “ it’s better than the stuff in plastic bottles that cost an arm and a leg.”

Glasses of water

Be spiritual. Persons living in Blue Zones have a strong belief in God. Nicoyans in particular believe that everything that happens is God’s will. Though this may seem simplistic to some, it relieves them of stress and anxiety. If the word “God” offends you while reading this, I can guarantee Costa Rica is not for you.

Unplug. Cell phones and cable TV have only existed in these communities in the last 25 years. Most of the centenarians do not text or use the internet. In many cases, they have lived the majority of their life without electricity and do not drive. The first 70-80 years of their lives have been slow-paced, pastoral and quiet. They have been less stressed throughout their lives than other Costa Rican, even their children and grandchildren. It follows that the current generation of Nicoyans may not live as long as their parents and grandparents.


So when you hear the term “Pura Vida” or Pure Life this is what it is all about

So, there is your guide to living in the zone—the Blue Zone that is!

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