Stay motivated, get into the Vitality Project

Published 8:38 am Friday, August 13, 2010

Pat Garbisch, Vitality Viewpoints

Most everyone in Albert Lea knows what happened last year when Dan Buettner came to town and made Albert Lea the first city in the United States to apply the principles found in the book “Blue Zones.”

Pat Garbisch

It was very clear to anyone who watched the evening news or read the magazine and newspaper articles that the citizens of Albert Lea were enthusiastic and pumped up to be a part of this great health and wellness experiment. It was an honor to be chosen to take those bold steps toward improving our mental and physical health and ultimately extending our lives. We were proud and it showed.

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On the newsstands, the August issue of U.S. News & World Report has a three-page spread on the transformation of our community and the impact the Blue Zones has had on the lives of individuals and families. Much of the article explains what happened here last year, but it also explains how snack carts in our schools this fall will offer healthier alternatives to junk food, how we are planning to extend our walking and biking trails and how restaurants in town are thinking of ways to make dining out actually good for us. These are things that are happening today.

Where are you in this process of changing your life? Has the message of the Blue Zones last year produced permanent changes? Are you still walking or biking as often as you did last year? Have you planted a garden so you and your family have fresh produce with your evening meal? Are you attending your place of worship regularly or taking time every day to reflect or meditate? Are you connecting socially with your friends, neighbors, family? Are you consciously choosing healthier alternatives when you eat at restaurants? Are you choosing water over soft drinks from the vending machine at work? When school starts, will your children ride the bus or walk to school this year?

The Blue Zones philosophy was not a one-year event. It is a lifelong process. Our changes must be permanent and evolving. Practicing it for one year and then going back to the way things were will not achieve lasting results. Much happened here last year. Wonderful changes were made. Lives were transformed. But that was last year and now the true test starts.

This fall we will be opening the National Vitality Center in the Jacobson Building. There, we will host classes, provide access to health and wellness information and provide meeting space for our initiatives. Perhaps we’ll invite a guest speaker to talk to us about public policy changes to promote biking in our city. We may hold a weekly yoga class or have a nutritionist present a series of classes on healthy cooking and nutrition. We could have schoolchildren visit to learn why it’s important to incorporate physical activity into their daily lives, instead of staring at a computer screen all day.

The sky is the limit and we are very excited to be opening this facility for you, the citizens of Albert Lea.

Want to get involved in the Vitality Project again? Contact me at 507-369-5545 or e-mail me at

Pat Garbisch is the coordinator for the National Vitality Center.