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4 aging secrets of Japanese supercentenarians, from a longevity researcher whose great-grandmother lived to 115

Yumi Yamamoto whispering into the ear of Kikue Taira, the younger sister of the world's oldest ever pair of siblings
Yamamoto with Kikue Taira, the younger sister of the world's oldest ever pair of siblings.Nomoto Shunki, LongeviQuest
  • Yumi Yamamoto has met Japan's oldest living people, and her great-grandmother died at 115.

  • She's noticed a few things Japanese supercentenarians do which might contribute to their longevity.

  • She shared these aging secrets with Business Insider, including radio gymnastics.

A longevity researcher who verifies the ages of supercentenarians, and whose great-grandmother lived to the age of 116, shared four aging secrets from the longest-living people in Japan.

Yumi Yamamoto, the Japan research president for LongeviQuest, an organization that validates the ages of the world's oldest people and collects their stories, has this year verified four supercentenarians, which are those who live past the age of 110. This includes Japan's oldest person, Fusa Tatsumi, who celebrated her 116th birthday in the spring.

She is also the great-granddaughter of Shigeyo Nakachi, who was the second oldest living person in Japan at the time of her death in 2021.

So, Yamamoto knows a thing or two about longevity, particularly what Japanese people with long lives have in common.

LongeviQuest has verified 269 supercentenarians in Japan, including in Okinawa, one of the world's five Blue Zones, where an unusually high number of people live to over 100. Like in other Blue Zones, super-agers in Japan tend not to eat much meat and spend lots of time with family.

But superagers in Japan also have longevity-boosting habits which are more specific to the country, which Yamamoto shared with Business Insider.

Eating until they are only 80% full

"There's a saying in Japanese, which says you should only eat until you're 80% full, so you should leave space at the end of a meal," Yamamoto said.

The saying, "hara hachi bu," helps Japanese people to practice mindful eating and mild calorie restriction, which research suggests reduces inflammation and could be beneficial for longevity according to animal studies, although more research is needed.

The average daily calorie intake of someone from the Okinawa Blue Zone, for instance, is only about 1,900, according to Blue Zones, which is less than the 2,000 calories per day that the US Food and Drug Administration recommends.

Do everything in moderation

One of the biggest lessons Yamamoto has learned from her chats with supercentenarians is "don't do things to excess, instead do all things in moderation."

For example, Kane Taneka, the oldest recorded Japanese person and second oldest person in recorded history, who lived to 119, enjoyed Coca-Cola, but, Yamamoto said, would only have one bottle a day.

"She wasn't addicted to it, and she wouldn't drink to excess. This is something that I think is common in Japan. Japanese people eat in a balanced way and they don't eat or drink to excess," she said. "And that goes not just for food and drink, but also things like not staying up all night."

Experts agree that enjoying treats in moderation can make healthy eating more sustainable — an approach dubbed the 80/20 rule.

Radio gymnastics

In Japan, people take part in what's known as radio gymnastics, Yamamoto said. Since 1928, a radio broadcast has directed listeners in body weight exercises for five minutes a day, and Yamamoto tries to do radio gymnastics in the mornings just like Japan's super-agers, she said.

Research suggests that doing short bursts of intense physical activity could lower the risk of cancer and heart disease, and therefore improve longevity.

And, as BI previously reported, most Blue Zones superagers don't go to the gym, and instead incorporate movement into their daily lives — whether that's by walking, taking the stairs, or doing group sports to combine socializing with exercise.

Straight posture

Yamamoto said that her great-grandmother was always very "regimented" in her posture, always maintaining a straight back.

"One thing I've noticed about Japanese supercentenarians and centenarians is that they're very disciplined and strict on themselves in terms of straight posture," she said. "As humans, we will tend to hunch over a little bit as we get older, but very elderly Japanese people, even until old age, will maintain a very straight posture," she said.

Research suggests that a good posture can minimize strain on the body, prevent pain, and help keep it functioning correctly.

Read the original article on Business Insider