What’s the secret to living a long and happy life? Geography! According to a long term study, the world’s healthiest people live in areas around the globe known as “Blue Zones.” Places like Sardinia, Italy – where there are more male centenarians than anywhere else on earth, Nicoya, Costa Rica – where 50 years old are three times more likely to hit age 90, and an island off of Greece that’s completely free of Alzheimer’s.

Dan Buettner is the author of "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest.” For the last eight years he’s been exploring and studying the world’s Blue Zones to find out why the people there tend to live longer, healthier lives. What he found is that the lifestyle in each zone is remarkably similar. For instance, in every Blue Zone, the people eat less meat and more plant based foods, especially beans. All have some daily relaxation ritual like prayer or meditation.

Buettner thinks other lifestyle characteristics are really making the difference. He says Blue Zoners don’t exercise in short spurts, like we do when we go to the gym. They’re constantly moving. They have to walk to visit friends, or go to the market. They work in their garden and knead their own bread. Basically, they use their bodies more often, so their bodies are less likely to break down.

They also live in strong family units. Most of the elderly in the Blue Zones live near or with their children, and they’re still contributing to the family. They cook and clean, grow food and take care of young children, which not only keeps their body active, but it gives them a sense of purpose. Studies have shown that people with purpose live longer, recover from illness faster, and have lower rates of depression and dementia.

One more secret of the Blue Zoners: They surround themselves with other people who live similar lifestyles. We’ve told you about studies that say if your friends are overweight, then chances are you are too. Well the opposite is also true, and according to Dan Buettner, this is the key to longevity. If you want to go further with this check out BlueZones.com.