Albert Lea to be featured in new Blue Zones book

Published 10:38 pm Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Nearly nine years after the Blue Zones project began in Albert Lea, Founder Dan Buettner credits Albert Lea with being a leader in the movement.

Buettner, a New York Times-best seller and Twin Cities native, discusses Albert Lea in his new book, “The Blue Zones of Happiness: Lessons from the World’s Happiest People,” which spotlights how people can live in ways that lead to happy lives. The book shifts the project’s focus from health to happiness and reportedly reveals secrets of the world’s happiest places, showing how individuals can apply lessons of happiness. 

Buettner views his project as exceeding expectations.

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“It’s been a success beyond my wildest dreams,” he said.

Albert Lea was the first demonstration community in the initiative. Under the guidance of Buettner and walkability expert Dan Burden, Albert Lea made improvements that led to a 96-percent increase in pedestrian traffic and an influx of visitors to the downtown district.

In a phone interview Wednesday, Buettner said all schools in the community adopted the Blue Zones pledge, creating a healthier food environment. The Blue Zones walking path around Fountain Lake and community gardens have also been implemented.

Work in downtown Albert Lea has increased walkability and aesthetics in the district, leading to commercial success, Buettner said.

A 35-percent decrease in local tobacco use will save employers $8 million to $9 million, and a Gallup Sharecare Well-Being Index shows a 14-percent increase in healthy eating locally.

The idea for the program was sparked when Buettner visited areas around the world where people were living longer, healthier lives. Buettner came up with a list of nine healthy lifestyle habits that help people live longer, healthier and happier lives.

The program advises people move naturally, know their sense of purpose, find a stress-relieving strategy and find a routine, consume the smallest meals in the late afternoon or early afternoon, eat a rich array of fresh fruits and vegetables, drink wine, choose healthy social circles, belong to a faith-based community, put their family first and don’t overeat.

If Albert Lea did not adopt the Blue Zones project, it would be similar to surrounding communities that have high rates of obesity, diabetes and prediabetes rates, Buettner said.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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