Blue Zones Project promotes health

Participants ride smoothie and spin art bikes – Debbra Baetz
Participants ride smoothie and spin art bikes – Debbra Baetz

Free massages, yoga, a smoothie bike ride, a keiki food demonstration and a 75-foot inflatable obstacle course were a few of the activities at the Blue Zones Project Ko’olaupoko kickoff event on Oct. 16 at WCC.

Blue Zones Project is a national program administered by healthcare company Healthways to help communities build for healthier and active living.

Project founder Dave Buettner explained in an interview on KHON2’s “Living 808” that Blue Zones selects communities that show they are ready to “make tough policy choices to favor walking over driving, to favor fruits and vegetables over junk foods.”

Buettner is a lifelong explorer who has worked with National Geographic for the past 20 years. In 2004, he and a team of researchers started a project to look for places around the world where people live the longest.

They identified Okinawa in Japan, Ikaria in Greece, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Loma Linda in California and Sardinia in Italy where people are living to a 100 or longer.

They discovered that about 90% of longevity diets are plant-based and high in grains.

Sweet potato is “the number one ingredient and longevity diet in Okinawa,” said Buettner. “I would say the one food that everybody listening should be eating every single day–beans. If you’re eating about a cup of beans a day, it’s probably adding three to four years to your life so that’s an easy takeaway.”

Ko’olaupoko, the windward district from Kualoa to Waimanalo, was chosen as a “Blue Zone” because it showed its commitment to the program by getting 25% of its independently or locally-owned restaurants and grocery stores to become “Blue Zones” restaurants and stores by providing healthier choices. The project is sponsored locally by HMSA.

“We feel fortunate that we were selected,” said Blue Zones Project Ko’olaupoko community programs manager Cherie Andrade. “We are the only one on O’ahu to be selected.”

The National Kidney Foundation of Hawai’i, Foodland, UH Master Gardener Program, Kama’aina Kids and Hawai’i Bicycling League were just a few of the organizations present at the kickoff event.

They were also there to promote the Power 9 principle, which promotes nine healthy habits such as moving naturally, having a purpose each day and downshifting by finding ways to relieve stress.

Participants drum and move to the rhythm of Drums Alive by Karen Watanabe – Debbra Baetz
Participants drum and move to the rhythm of Drums Alive by Karen Watanabe – Debbra Baetz

“The whole goal of Blue Zones Project is for people to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” said Andrade. “We do that by making permanent changes in the community in the place where people live, work and play.”

Buettner said that the traditional culture of Hawai’i is very “Blue Zones,” but we’re losing it as traffic jams and fast food restaurants pop up and that we need to “bring that back and make that cool and hip again.”

Blue Zones Project Ko’olaupoko welcomes volunteers and support.

For more information, go to or email You can also follow Blue Zones Project Ko’olaupoko on Facebook.


by Debbra Baetz, Ka ‘Ohana Editor in Chief