Dan Buettner knows a little something about longevity. He’s the holder of three separate Guinness World Records for distance biking: a 15,500-mile ride from Alaska to Argentina in 1987, when he was 27; a 12,888-mile journey across the Soviet Union in 1990; and a 12,172-mile jaunt through Africa completed in 1992. But it was research on longevity first published in National Geographic that really established his bona fides on the subject. The Minnesota native traveled to four countries to study the world’s heartiest humans. In Sardinia, Okinawa, Costa Rica, and Loma Linda, California, Buettner partnered with scientists to examine anomalous pockets where the number of centenarians vastly exceeded the statistical average. These areas became the subject of his book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest (National Geographic). This spring Buettner continued his research, visiting a fifth zone, the Greek island of Ikaría in the Aegean Sea.
Despite the tremendous cultural and geographic differences between these distant lands, Buettner has identified common practices that seem to aid in extreme longevity. He calls these “The Power Nine,” or the nine rules any person can follow in the hopes of emulating the world’s longest-living humans.
We caught up with the author and anthropological explorer, now 49 and still based in Minnesota, and asked him about his work, as well as whether living the adventure life offers a speed pass to health and happiness.
Do you consider what you do adventuring?
I’m of the impression that most things sold as expeditions are stunts—bungee cords from hot-air balloons or stunt-y trips up Everest. These things don’t really add to the public discourse. They don’t offer up ideas. In my opinion, expeditions need to add to the body of knowledge or they need to educate.