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Health & Exercise Forum

Celebrating Life: Part 2 of 5

Jun 8, 2015

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise Forum10th ANNIVERSARY : Series of 5 Columns Celebrating Life!

Part 2 of 5

“Health and Exercise Forum” by Dr. Paul Mackarey, completes its 10 year in June of 2015 …THANK YOU! Thank you for your kind words, positive (and negative) feedback in the form of phone calls, texts, emails and simple chats on the streets. I am grateful and humbled. In honor of the 10th anniversary of “Health and Exercise Forum,” I decided to write a series of columns that encapsulates the most important messages regarding health and wellness, base on current wisdom. Readers in NEPA seem to be consistently interested in is health, wellness and longevity. While I have written about this repeatedly, in many different ways, over the past 10 years, I thought this would be the perfect time to share some new information. Please enjoy and embrace the wisdom of those centenarians both from NEPA and from around the globe and let me know your thoughts.


Academics have long suspected that there are specific clusters of people around the globe who significantly outlive the general population. This concept provoked National Geographic Explorer Dan Buettner, to travel around the world in an attempt to study geographic locations around the world that had the greatest concentration of centenarians. He and his research team further studied their cultures and social habits to determine commonalities among these people and their habitats. He discovered that DNA is only one of many ingredients for a long and healthy life. His book, The Blue Zone, details his findings and here is a summary of what they found…

Buettner and his team identified five specific locations on the planet where people seem to have found the “secrets of a long life:” Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California. But, Buettner and his team were not just impressed with the age of the people they met in these zones, but the active lifestyle they maintained, even at 102 years of age. For example, he met a 94 year old man from Costa Rica, who continues to work as a farmer and a 102 year old woman from Sardinia, who hikes at least 6 miles every day. He designated these “Blue Zones” as special places where several common traits contributed to longevity; strong social structure, plant-based diet, moderate consumption of food and daily physical activity. Researchers hope that with lessons learned from the “blue zones” and their people, in combination with scientific discovery, technology and modern medicine, that other people can create their own healthy spaces, change lifestyles and live longer, healthier and happier lives.


Sardinia is a Mediterranean island located off the coast of Italy, slightly more distance than Cuba is to the US. According to the book, “Blue Zones,” there are 10 times more centenarians per 1000 people in Sardinia than in the US. The lifestyle and social traditions contribute to long-lived men in several ways. This is most unusual because women typically outlive men. The men in Sardinia work in the mountainous regions of the island as farmers or shepherds. Consequently, they walk many miles each day, up and down steep and difficult terrain, working the land and herding the flock. These are daily activities that continue throughout life, even well into the 90’s and 100. They do not retire from tasks essential to sustain life…food, shelter, etc.

Healthy Living in Sardinia:

  • Walk as part of your daily routine: Sardinian shepherds walk more than 5 miles a day. No treadmill or spinning classes needed are for aerobic exercise for cardiovascular fitness, endurance and caloric expenditure.
  • Challenge your body: Climbing up and down hills on rough terrain maintains a good vestibular (balance) system which prevents falls.
  • Physical labor maintains muscle tone and bone density.
  • Healthy diet: Living on an island with limited land for grazing cows, Sardinians eat a plant-based diet with plenty of beans and small portions of cheese made from sheep’s milk (pecorino). They also drink goat’s milk and eat meat only as an accent to a meal, not as a main dish.
  • Red Wine: Sardinians enjoy a glass of locally made red wine which has very high levels of antioxidants for a healthy heart.
  • Family: With a close family unit throughout a lifetime, Sardinians experience less stress and depression.
  • Sardinians are “Sardonic” – a word that means wry sense of humor. They make time to enjoy the company of family and friends to shed stress through camaraderie and humor.

Read Dr. Mackarey’s "Health & Exercise Forum" in the Scranton Times-Tribune every Monday. Next week read: Part 3 of 5, “Longevity”

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email:

Paul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor  in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.