Over a decade ago, I visited a friend in Costa Rica and fell in love with the country. Since then, I have returned eight times; leading women’s retreats, celebrating my daughter’s 18th birthday, and just exploring the countryside. I loved it so much that I almost bought a ten-acre farm in the Nicoya Peninsula.
The Nicoya Peninsula is known as one of the Blue Zones, famous for the high rate of Centenarians — people living to 100 and beyond. In fact, in June 2012, Costa Rica reported 416 citizens over the age of 100. With just 4.5 million citizens, that’s a huge number.
Dan Buettner’s, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from People Who’ve Lived the Longest, published by National Geographic Society, identifies places in the world where people live to age 100 and are also healthy. These Blue Zones include: Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan; the Aegean island of Ikaria, Greece; a Seventh-Day Adventist community in Loma Linda, California, and Barbagia, Sardinia off the coast of Italy.
Before I share the secrets of their long life, let me give you an example of what I witnessed the time I visited the Nicoya Peninsula with my daughter, Kirsten. We rented a beautiful condo on the beach, and across the road there was a condo-type of residence occupied by the local people who call themselves Ticos. At the time when we were there, they were adding a third floor to the building that had a flat roof.
One day we were relaxing in the shade of our porch, because it gets so hot at lunch time. We were amazed to watch the Ticos working in the hot sun. They were literally making cement by hand, pushing a wheel barrel up two floors on a makeshift ramp, then building pillars by handing buckets of cement mixture to a man on a ladder who was pouring them into the forms they had built.
You would think that they would have been complaining, or at least unhappy about their situation. You know what they were doing instead? They were singing. It brought my daughter and me to tears. To this day, I still choke up when I think about it. At the end of the day, they all would jump into the back of a pick-up truck and head down a dusty road to their local communities, with simple open air homes, where they would be greeted by their friends and family.
We absolutely fell in love with Costa Rica and what they call Pura Vida or The Pure Life. This pure life is the secret to their longevity and here is what Pura Vida is all about:
- Strong Sense of Purpose and Community. Centenarians say they feel needed, with close ties to family and friends. People of all ages are socially active in the community.
- Nicoyans believe in God, and their faith routines help release anxiety and keep them active.
- Lifetime Physical Labor. Moderate physical activity is a normal part of daily life: working, walking, biking, cooking, gardening, and caring for animals.
- Healthy Food. Most of the Blue Zone residents of the world eat a primarily plant-based diet that includes beans. The Nicoyans eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. They also have their biggest meal during the middle of the day with a small meal in the evening.
- Mineral Rich Water: The water of Nicoya is high in calcium and magnesium which strengthens their bones throughout their lives. It’s not bottled water, but rather, the water is fresh from the ground, filtered through limestone.
- Sun. Nicoyans enjoy lots of sun daily, giving them lots of vitamin D. According to experts, getting at least 20 minutes of sunlight a day can decrease the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.
- Nicoyans average eight hours of sleep a day by getting to sleep early and rising with the sun.
- No Smoking. Smoking is not common.
These are eight simple secrets to longevity or living to age 100. Think about how you can incorporate these steps into your own lifestyle. If you look at these secrets, it’s what the Ticos call Pura Vida or the Pure Life.
Ever since travelling to both Panama and Costa Rica, I have been working to create Pura Vida here in Michigan. I’ve led a few women’s retreats in Costa Rica too, and almost every woman experiences some type of profound shift in her life after visiting.
I’m considering planning another retreat to the Nicoya, Costa Rica. If you are interested, please visit my webpage at Smart Women Getaways where you can learn more and even watch a video from our last trip that I co-led with anti-aging expert, Dr. Susan Sklar. This retreat may even be for couples. On the page, you can click a link to talk with me personally if you are interested.