We all know how to live a healthy lifestyle… you eat right and exercise; it’s simple isn’t it?. Why is it then that some countries seem so much healthier than others? How can South Africa have a life expectancy of 57 whilst Japan enjoys a life expectancy of 83?

There are of course economic and political forces behind the health of a nation with an individual’s standard of living and access to quality healthcare factoring largely in how healthy they are. However, it is clear that there are some elements of a country’s culture that help keep people healthy and we’ll be taking a closer look at these focussing on a nation’s lifestyle as we discover the health secrets of our pick of the world’s healthy countries.

5) Sardinia
Sardinia, an autonomous region of Italy, has the highest number of people older than a century relative to their population.  Although some say this is down to ‘something in the air’ the residents will tell you it’s simply a matter of working hard and eating plenty of minestrone, beans, potatoes and other genuine home grown foods. It is also a region of very tight knit communities with the elderly living with their families.

 

 

4) New Zealand
With a tiny population of 4.5 million people, New Zealanders enjoy air free from the pollutants of more densely populated countries and have a very active lifestyle of hiking, cycling and swimming making full use of their beautiful and at times dramatic landscapes of mountain ranges, glacial lakes and picturesque countryside. With the high cost of importing food, many New Zealanders grow their own which also contributes to their healthy lifestyle.

 

 

3) Sweden
Sweden also enjoys a beautiful and dramatic landscape and like the New Zealanders the Swedish take advantage of this by taking part in sports and other outdoor pursuits. They are also a nation that eats a lot of fish rich in Omega 3 and fatty acids. Their methods of cooking are also incredibly healthy opting to dry, smoke, ferment and poach their food.

 

 

2) Japan
Japan has one of the lowest obesity rates of any developed country. This is unsurprising considering it’s a cultural norm to stop eating once you’re 80% full and to wait ten minutes before deciding whether to eat again. It is also government policy to measure citizens to ensure they stay within the mandated waist size. Japan is another country that loves its fish; in fact, it’s the largest consumer of fish in the world and of whole soy, seaweed and green tea. The Japanese are also renowned for their good care of the elderly.

 

 

1) Iceland
Iceland endures some of the darkest dreariest winters in the world and to stave away the winter blues, Icelanders take to the gym to keep fit and to keep up their spirits. With Iceland’s tiny population Icelanders also benefit from clean pollutant free air. Icelanders enjoy a healthy diet of lean lamb, seafood and artisanal dairy. However, the health secret that many people in Iceland swear by (although not scientifically proven) is the benefits of water therapy in their volcanically heated natural hot springs.

 

 

For more information on the world’s healthiest countries take a look at Forbes Magazine’s article on the world’s healthiest countries or How Stuff Works’ article on 7 countries home to the world’s healthiest people

Have we picked the right countries, let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below: