The city of Manhattan Beach made a commitment in 2010 to support the Blue Zones Project — a Beach Cities Health District (BCHD)-led wellbeing and health initiative in the Beach Cities of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. The Blue Zones Project uses a communitywide approach designed to make healthy choices easier where people live, work, learn and play. In Manhattan Beach, implementation of this vision focused on providing healthy food options, providing walking and bicycling infrastructure, and adopting a smoke-free policy.

What began as a New York Times bestseller by National Geographic explorer and researcher Dan Buettner, shaped the creation of the Blue Zones Project by identifying nine lifestyle principles (Power 9® Principles) common to areas of the world where people lived the longest. The Power 9 Principles include:

  1. Move naturally — live in environments that naturally get you moving without thinking;
  2. Purpose;
  3. Down shift — reduce stress;
  4. 80 percent rule — stop eating when your stomach is 80 percent full;
  5. Plant Slant or stick to a plant-based diet;
  6. Wine @ 5 — moderate alcohol intake;
  7. Belong — engage in spirituality or religion;
  8. Loved Ones First — engage with family members; and
  9. Right Tribe — engage in social networks, people with similar health behaviors.

Becoming a Blue Zones Community supports the city of Manhattan Beach’s strategic goal on environmental stewardship to promote a healthy and active lifestyle for the community through creation of a built environment that compliments the natural environment.

Healthy Food Alternatives

BCHD certifies that local restaurants make healthy choices available and easy to find on their menu. There are currently more than 100 Blue Zones restaurants and five grocery stores in BCHD. The city also works with the Downtown Manhattan Beach Farmers Market and Growing Great to provide and raise awareness on local produce. Growing Great teaches nutrition education through garden plots at each of the elementary schools, and is recognized by the city each Earth Day for their incredible work.

Leadership Manhattan Beach (LMB) in 2013 created an awareness campaign and raised funds for the purchase of five water filling stations so users can easily refill reusable water bottles while they are riding bikes, walking/jogging, or playing sports at the city’s parks — and do away with disposable plastic pollution. Through the partnership with LMB, the city installed the stations at each of the sites and maintains them. The school district has also implemented similar fundraising campaigns in each its schools.

Active Transportation

Receiving grant funding and partnering with Grades of Green and BCHD, the city designed three walking school bus routes to encourage students to walk to school. The city installed several art inspired bicycle racks through another partnership with LMB, and held a special “Moving Planet” community event in September 2011 to promote active transportation. The city adopted a regional bicycle master plan in November 2011, which proposed an additional 31 miles of bikeways in an effort to improve the community’s bikeability and reduce auto reliance. Staff vetted the routes with South Bay Bicycle Coalition volunteers, and beginning February 2012 designated two “Bicycle Friendly Streets,” installed bike route signs, installed a Class II bike lane in the downtown area, and “Sharrows” to encourage drivers to share the road with cyclists. In October 2015, a 1.25 mile Class II bike lane was installed, with an additional 1.25 miles in final design.

Breathe Free MB

A smoke-free outdoor areas policy helps protect the health of the 86.9 percent of Californians who are nonsmokers, and tackles cigarette pollution before it reaches the coast. On June 17, 2014, the Manhattan Beach City Council voted to adopt Ordinance 14-0008 to prohibit smoking in all public places in the city of Manhattan Beach and prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes wherever smoking is not allowed.

The Smoke-Free Public Places ordinance became effective in July 2014, and became eligible to be enforced after August 2014. The Breathe Free MB policy was adopted with the assistance of several volunteers who surveyed residents and local businesses to determine support for a policy that would protect families, employees, and visitors from exposure to second hand smoke. BCHD, Los Angeles County, Surf rider, and Smoke Free Areas for Everyone are a few of the key partners. The city also worked with Grades of Green and the National Charity League to promote smoking prevention to youth through annual “Kick Butts Day” activities.

The Blue Zones Project presented a very unique opportunity for Manhattan Beach to participate in a nationally recognized initiative that brought positive attention to the community, and improved the quality of life for those that live and work in Manhattan Beach. Civic engagement is a priority in Manhattan Beach, and throughout the Blue Zones Project the community was involved from planning meetings to provide input, to classes and workshops, volunteer opportunities, and special community events. Today residents are healthier and more engaged with the community than ever before.

One way to illustrate this is through the number of participants in the city’s recreational programs. In 2015, the city had 662,939 attendees in our parks, fields and programs — an increase of over 150,000 participants from 2010. For a population of 36,000, that participation level is outstanding, and shows the value the community places on the availability of recreational and wellness programs.

To continue the promotion of healthy lifestyles, BCHD partners with more than 25 fitness studios connecting residents with free fitness opportunities. In 2015, more than 2,800 participated in the weekend fitness series, while over 3,000 participated in a 12-week summer series that included beach yoga and zumba in the park.

Health and wellness results in Manhattan Beach and the Beach Cities have been phenomenal. Measurements from The Gallup|Healthways Well-Being Index reported a $12 million savings in annual healthcare costs in the Beach Cities. In 2015, Gallup reports indicated exercise has increased 5 percent, healthy eating has increased 6 percent, and smoking has decreased 28 percent.

In addition, the Beach Cities collectively earned the highest 2015 Well-Being Index score in the U.S. — outpacing all 190 metro areas measured. Individually, Manhattan Beach ranked first, with Hermosa Beach and Redondo Beach ranking second and fifth nationally. Another key indicator where Manhattan Beach outpaced California, and the nation, is low smoking rates of 5.6 percent. In California that number is 13.7 percent and nationwide it is 18.8 percent.

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Originally posted at the League of CA Cities.