Blue Zone Project hits Cedar Falls

Cedar Falls High School hosted Cedar Falls Blue Zones community kick off on Wednesday, Nov. 28. About 450 people were at the event. It featured music, food and a lecture to introduce the project and its goals to the city.

The Blue Zones Project is a world-wide intention to improve the quality of life  through stimulating healthy ways of life.The collaboration between the sponsors Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shields and Healthway is an attempt to make Iowa the most healthy state in the country.

National Geographic author and researcher, Dan Buettner, who came to talk about it last Wednesday, studied the longest-lived cultures in the world and brought together all the aspects that make such difference in those communities, trying to apply it to daily life.

According to Blues Zones effort for Cedar Falls Community Schools coordinator Troy Becker, who had been involved with physical activities before, the goals to the community are very broad. The intention “is to get several different areas like schools, work places and grocery stores to help improving the wellness and well being of the community.” To achieve those goals he said he believes that nine things should help. They include being physically active and having the right out look. “Usually people who live a long happy life know their purpose. They understand the importance of slowing down and enjoying life” he said. Other things include eating wisely. For example, when older people drink a glass of red wine each day, it brings a lot of benefits like reducing risks of cancer. Building strong relationships and prioritizing family are also very important.

A short term goal for the project in the community is to get the city certified in different areas. To be certified, each area establishment needs to go through a check list that adds points for each term accomplished. When those points have a sum that shows healthy impacts in the community, then the place that applied gets certified.

So far Lincoln Elementary and North Cedar have become certified, and other elementaries are on the way. He said the real key to the Blue Zones being successful is to not approach it as a timeline. “It is our new way of life; it is long term. If we want long term impacts what we are doing here has to be sustainable. We don’t want to do it for a year, become certified and stop. We want to make sure that this is not something that is not going away,” Becker said.

Everybody working on the project is a volunteer. The sponsors picked six communities in Iowa to be their test cities, including Cedar Falls and Waterloo. With success, it will be possible to start Blue Zones in another communities.

Becker said he believes that the biggest challenge for Cedar Falls is “to get the word out to the entire community. The people that are involved know about Blue Zones, but we need to get other people [involvement], and have them start to live the Blue Zones style of life.”

He added that the kick off was a good opportunity to bring the Project out and have the community start to know about it and sign up. The committee intends to get more establishments and people  in the community as members of the Blue Zone work.

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