Unlocking Your Full Power Potential Through the Blue Zones

TAGS: spirituality, sense of purpose, low stress, daily activity, life expectancy, food consumption, blue zones, happiness, genetics, clean eating, Eric Maroscher, powerlifting


Blue zones. The term itself has an ominous tone to it and conjures up images of far-away lands where alien creatures reside. Or perhaps the term “blue zones” is used for those dark mysterious areas it would behoove us to steer well clear of at all costs.

In actuality, the term "blue zones" refers to five very specific areas of our very own planet earth that have been studied, restudied, and studied some more for a very specific reason. That reason, although far from ominous, is in fact somewhat mysterious. More on that in a moment.

The following are the five areas of the planet earth called blue zones (in no particular order):

  • The Italian island of Sardinia (the birthplace of Franco Columbo)
  • Okinawa, Japan
  • Loma Linda, California
  • Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica
  • The Greek island of Ikaria

So, no alien creatures reside in these areas, but in a way, the people living in these five blue zones might as well be aliens from another world. Here is why.

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The reason these areas have been the subject of so much exhaustive study, and the reason I jest that the people living in these are really alien creatures from another world, is because these are the five areas, the five blue zones of the planet, where the inhabitants are healthier and live longer than anywhere else on the planet. Specifically, the people who live in these five blue zones typically live to be 90-100 or more years of age and do so with no medication and without disability. In other words, their life span is nearly 30% greater on average than the average human lifespan, and these blue zone people continue to be active and healthy virtually to their last day.

The question being, why are the residents of the blue zones extra long-living and uber-healthy? As powerlifting is such a body-violent sport, powerlifters could truly benefit from these traits. I say that because if these individuals are healthier, have fewer disease, and live longer, that can only prove to be advantageous for the powerlifter who wants to get every bit of bang out of their biological buck for training and meet time.

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In powerlifting circles, we often hear discussions about why lifters are successful. Common discussions focus on genetics, PEDs, training programs, sleep, nutrition, and supplementation. The reality is, any and all of these topics can and/or do play a role.

So, let’s look at these blue zone populations and see what it is that gives them this seemingly super health and longevity, and the ability to stave off disease and disability. Perhaps we too, the non-blue zone inhabitants, can learn and apply something from these populations and apply that to our pursuits in the sport of powerlifting. Let’s begin by looking at our list from above of common attributes considered reasons for powerlifting prowess.

Genetics: The good news is, these blue zone centenarians have no apparent genetic advantages. That is great news for you, as well as the average human who is not headed to the next Summer Olympics nor pulling 901 pounds at 220 pounds of bodyweight like the great Ed Coan. If it were some genetic prowess involved with these blue zone populations, it would be game over, because unless you are reading this from your home in a blue zone area where you were born, you would not be in that genetic gene pool. So, we can rule out genetics with regard to these populations ability to stay healthy and live longer.

Environment: Do these populations have environmental conditions, proximity to the sun and its vitamin D rich environment, or some aspect of living by the sea or air quality that keeps them all living so long and fighting off disease? Again, the good news is that science has demonstrated it is not the environment that gives these inhabitants these super-human qualities, so again good news for you, as most likely you are not reading this information from your phone or iPad on the Greek island of Ikariaone.

Technology or Supplementation: Perhaps these areas have the best doctors or supplements or gyms or drugs or something that gives these blue zone populations those extra 30 years of health on this planet. The answer again is no. There is no secret potion or elixir being supplied in these blue zones.

What is it then about these blue zones that make them so rich in health and longevity? Researchers over and again have shown that plain and simple, these five unique and differently located populations have nearly identical lifestyle components, meaning, the habits, tastes, moral standards, choices, or modes of living. So although these zones are separated by land and/or sea, the lifestyles and contents of those lifestyles are the same.

This is great news for the genetically average powerlifter, or even the genetically gifted as well because this means that by replicating the common lifestyle components, replication of the health benefits can be attained. The healthier we are, the higher quality of the training we can achieve. This all equates to bigger numbers, which, at the end of the day, is what we are looking for.

The blue zone populations have lifestyles that are composed of the following major components.

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Feeding The Machine

Just like the finest tuned race cars that only use the highest quality gas for their super engines, the populations of these zones only put the highest quality foods in their bodies. In other words, they never super-size it, never take fries with that shake, and never pollute and gum up the intricate workings of the body’s systems with man-made preservatives, refined sugars, or things that humans have added to bastardize foods like acrylamide/polyacrylamide, acesulfame K, sodium nitrite, aspartame, and any other toxic array of other chemicals that really only serve the business-end of the food industry and ultimately work to rob the uneducated consumer of the true health benefits and nutrients of the way nature has created foods.

Blue zone inhabitants eat “clean.” No preservatives, no sugar (the harbinger of inflammation and all the damage caused by it), no artificial this and that, and no toxins nor chemically produced and manufactured “food.” I hesitate to even use the word “clean” because that is really what true nutrient rich food is. We have to call true food “clean” because sadly, true food consumption has become rare in this drive-through I’ll-take-a-number-three-meal society we live in. Said another way: food grown on the farm, plucked from a tree, raised and grass fed is, by its very nature, true food. It is because the food industry's manipulation of food with preservatives and sugars and the like that food has to be called “clean” when juxtaposed against what has been manipulated and what used to be “clean” food.

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We can look back at the generation of the powerlifters from the 1960-1980’s. These men and women for the most part never looked soft, bloated, or fat. These lifters were very muscular, had a powerful and muscular and visible abdominal region, were amazingly strong, and their numbers were huge. More impressively, they sustained their numbers over decades, versus so many lifters today who produce, at most, a couple of years of big numbers only to succumb to health issues or injuries. So yes, all five of the blue zones eat “true” food for a lifetime.

Daily Activity Throughout The Day

Blue zone inhabitants don’t workout once per day; they are active every day and many, many times per day. These individuals don’t train with state-of-the-art equipment. They don’t have a $150 online trainer. Their routine to keep them healthy, disease-free, and to give them longevity is continuous movement several times per day.

In a world full of desk-jockey employment where folks sit from 9 AM  to 5 PM in a chair, stooped over looking at a screen in their cubical, activity can be a challenge. After all, it is that movement restrictive job that puts a roof over our heads and money in the bank. Research tells us that sitting for 50 or minutes in a row slows our metabolism down by 90 percent. 90 percent! In fact, this metabolism problem becomes exponential, and we can actually get to a point over weeks of being stationary for hours that no amount of exercise/training can repair the sedentary damage. Sitting all day has a greatest hits list of damage including, but not limited to: high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, overproduction of insulin, and cardiovascular disease, all of which erode our health, thus negatively impacting our training. Blue zone inhabitants in all five zones have active lifestyles combined with the aforementioned “true” food diet, each and every single day. Combined together, that is a powerful duet. I know by now, some folks reading this are thinking, “Well, I eat like garbage and I sit all day at work. I’m 0-2.”

Low Stress, High Happiness

Blue zone inhabitants are getting exponential benefits from their nutrition and their frequent daily movement as they are combining those two critical traits as low stress, high happiness individuals. Without the bombardment of the stress hormone cortisol, and with the addition of the neurotransmitter dopamine in abundance, the body stays significantly healthier. A healthy body for the powerlifter means better training. For the lifters who are students of the sport, we know that success in powerlifting is far more than training hard. And having top shelf health means that your training output is far superior than it is when you are feeling stressed and producing cortisol. Keep in mind that physical stress can cause cortisol release, but the body cannot distinguish between physical stress and mental or emotional stress. This means that if you are living a stressful lifestyle, your body is reacting as it there were additional physical stressors on it, and that means being internally bathed in more and more cortisol. So “true” food, plus daily prolonged activity, plus high happiness and minus stress. Are you 0-3?

monster garage deadlift

Sense of Purpose and Spirituality

Blue zone inhabitants work and live in a community of like-minded, positive people, all eating “true” food, in a happy environment and while being physically active all day. In addition, these people have a sense of purpose and some deep form of spirituality, be it a belief in the divine, a religious affiliation, or just a general belief in a power bigger than themselves. Regardless of the nuances, they all feel and believe that their life has a purpose. That is a common thread, just like clean food, low stress, and lots of daily movement are common threads in all five zones. Said another way: they have actual relationships and friendships rather than Facebook friends and the like. As critical as true food, a sense of purpose in life is common in all five of the blue zones and is a critical ingredient for health and longevity.

Sufficient Sleep

Blue zone inhabitants get the full benefits of sleep. To put it another way, they lack the debilitating and catastrophic effects of the average American’s sleep deprivation. I have written extensively about how sleep is easily the best PED on the planet. Check this article out!

Each of these five traits can be broken down into smaller components. For example, “true” food. That could be an entire article itself, just as the benefits of ongoing daily movement or the benefits of social support systems or a full night’s sleep could also be individual articles, as their importance should never be underestimated. But the purpose of this article is to give you this overall, broader snapshot of the lives of these people in the five areas of the planet where the average age is not 71 and diseased, but 90-100 and virtually disease and disability free. And looking at this snapshot, it is going to be glaringly obvious to anyone reading this how many of these traits they have in common with these individuals whose average life span is 30% greater than the average, or glaringly obvious how many traits we do not have in common.

The other purpose is to look at this data and realize that study after study after study has shown over and over and over again that folks who move out of the blue zones but maintain these common traits enjoy the health and longevity benefits, and those who move out of these zones and start to live like those in non-blue zone areas do not enjoy superior health, nor do they typically live beyond the average 71 years of age.

The final purpose, for those who are still reading this because they are actually serious about their training, is to modify your own personal lifestyle to mirror the blue zone lifestyle and take full advantage of superior health to push your body and your training to a level you could not do without these lifestyle traits.

The research has been done for you; the data is there, over and over again. The only thing left is to look deeper into these traits and apply this critical knowledge. You already do this with other aspects of your life. You read about training programs and you apply them. You read about specific exercises and movements and apply them. You read about prehab and rehab techniques and apply them. You read about nutritional supplements and apply them, now consider doing the same with these blue zone traits. The nay-sayers will say, “Look at lifter X. He/she lifts huge numbers and does not do any of those things.” Researchers would say this is true, but now imagine what their numbers would be if they did.

Wishing you the very best in your training and your meet prep. Ever onward.


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