Narrator: In 2009, social worker Brian Madsen [SP] took a test.
Brian: How often do you eat vegetables? How much exercise do you get in a day? Do you go to church, or do you go to a group once a week? I remember doing the test and it said that I was gonna die in my 50's. That's kinda scary because everything that I did was incredibly unhealthy.
Narrator: That test was one of the efforts of the Blue Zones pilot project, in the town of Albert Lee, Minnesota. Inspired by a number of communities across the world where people live longer than average, Blue Zones is an organization that implements community level changes aimed at helping residents live healthier, happier, and longer lives. Before the Blue Zones project, Brian's life was very different.
Brian: Lonely, I guess would be the nicest way to put it. You know, I would've just driven through the drive through, grabbed a bunch of McDonald's stuff and driven home. I wouldn't go out to save my life, I just would sit and watch TV and stew. I was 38 then. I was kinda like, OK, what can I do? Something simple and I was like okay, I'll do the walking moais.
Narrator: The walking moais were modeled on close knit social groups common in Okinawa, Japan, where people tend to live unusually long lives. These walking groups provide both social and physical health benefits.
Brian: I added around 20 years to my life just from making so many changes in my life, I added about 20 years. That's, that's quite a big jump. It really wasn't anything huge other than, I walk every day and I eat more fruits and vegetables. There's a group of people that I do things with now. I've got my walking moais that I walk with on a regular basis. I've also started doing a lot more theatre, something that I used to do. I would have never done a play six years ago. I might have thought about doing it, but I wouldn't have done it.
Brian: Will everyone please be seated for the morning announcements. We welcome our guests to East Cornucopia Lutheran Church on the Prairie this morning. Please sign the register in the annex on your way in.
I think people that have seen me beforehand versus now, there's a huge difference. You know, yeah, I was probably very depressed six years ago but I'm not that way any more. I kind of feel comfortable. I'm a lot happier. I'm out in the community a lot more. I'm talking to people and visiting and saying hi.
Brian I feel good. I feel really good.
[music]There may be small errors in this transcript.