Living Long in Ikaria

Ikaria is a tiny Greek Island surrounded by the Aegean Sea in the far east of the Mediterranean, just 30 kilometers off the Turkish Coast. Why is this isolated little island so special? It is unique as it is one of the few places on Earth, where longevity is not the exception, but the norm.

Ikaria travelstyle.gr, Pinterest
www.travelstyle.gr, Pinterest
The Blue Zone Island  

Ikarians tend to live much longer than people normally do. It is not surprising to come across centenarians on the island, who enjoy good health and an active life.

Dan Buettner, a former long-distance cyclist discovered this special feature of Ikaria in 2004, when he researched demographics and longevity in the world. He teamed up with physicians and demographers and investigated locations where life expectancy was high and the concentration of centenarians exceeded the average. He only found five such locations in the world, which he named “blue zones”. One of these blue zones is Ikaria, where approximately 8,000 people enjoy the privilege of longevity.

In Ikaria, the likelihood of people living to the age of 100 is a staggering 10 times higher than in other parts of the world. Ikarians not only live long, often to 100 years of age and beyond, but they do maintain good health throughout their lives. For example, Buettner and his team discovered that elderly Ikarians tend to be free of dementia, depression, cancer, heart disease and other chronic illnesses.

Ikarian elderly - www.travel.nationalgeographic.com, Pinterest
www.travel.nationalgeographic.com, Pinterest
When Buettner and his team started to investigate the reasons of longevity on the island, they looked into the island’s history, culture and climate and they also interviewed locals about their lifestyle, nutritional habits and general outlook on life.

From a historic point of view, it turned out that in the past, Ikaria was frequently invaded by Persians, Romans and Turks. The invasions prompted the local population to move to the central area of the island, where they lived in isolation. Because of their isolation, they developed a micro-culture, which is unique and completely their own. In the Ikarian micro-culture, family, traditions, social life and support of each other are very important values. As an elderly Ikarian pointed out, “It’s not a ‘me’ place. It’s an ‘us’ place.”.

Climate may also be a contributor to the exceptional life expectancy on Ikaria. The warm weather, the proximity of the sea and the good quality air definitely support health. Just like the mountainous terrain that prompts locals to maintain an active, outdoors lifestyle.

The traditional, low calorie Ikarian diet may also contribute to the healthy and long life of locals. Ikarians don’t’ consume refined sugars or processed foods and they eat meat very rarely. Instead, they maintain a primarily plant-based diet, consisting of home-grown vegetables. They consume beans, lentils, potatoes and wild greens. They eat plenty of fish, too. Dairy is rarely eaten, except for goat’s milk. Also, Ikarians drink lots of coffee, herbal teas infused with sage and mint and well as home-produced, pure red wine. Everything they eat and drink is home-grown and locally produced, therefore they don’t consume pesticides and chemicals. Ikarians also fast occasionally, which is also said to be beneficial for their health by slowing down their aging process.

As Ikarians grow their food and raise their animals themselves, they maintain an active, outdoor lifestyle. They spend a lot of time outdoors and they also walk fair distances every day, mostly on the mountainous inland terrain of the island. Life in Ikaria is active, but not stressful. Locals take afternoon naps, don’t rush and spend a lot of time with their families, friends and neighbours. They have purpose in life.

The research came to the conclusion that longevity in Ikaria is down to a multitude of factors including culture, geography, climate, nutrition, lifestyle and positive spirits. Life is not only long, but it is of high quality.

The Recipe of Ikarian Longevity

Let’s see what we can take over from the Ikarians to support a long and healthy life for ourselves:

  • Adopt a Mediterranean diet: Follow a primarily plant-based, organic diet. Add lots of whole grains, vegetables, fruits and pulses and try cooking with olive oil. Drink some good quality red wine and try herbal teas. Avoid meat as much as possible, but do include some fish in your diet.
  • Minimise your dairy intake: Minimise processed dairy intake, and replace cow’s milk to goat’s milk in your diet.
  • Be active: Exercise is key in the traditional Ikarian lifestyle in the form of farming, gardening and walking. It is advantageous to adopt some of these practices into modern, urban lifestyles, too. Try walking, a bit of gardening if possible and just spend time outdoors.
  • Drink herbal teas:  Herbal teas include antioxidants that keep diseases at bay and strengthen the immune system. Sip a cup of tea infused with mint, sage, rosemary or oregano and enjoy their health benefits.
  • Take a nap: A midday rest can be beneficial for your health as it lowers stress hormone levels and rests the heart. It is, unfortunately, wholly impractical to include naptime into urban lifestyles. Nevertheless, if you try having a nap at weekends, you may enjoy some of the benefits.
  • Fast: Ikarians are Greek Orthodox Christians, who occasionally fast due to religious purposes. Try restricting your calorie intake occasionally by 30 percent or more, as it is a proven way to slow down the aging process of mammals.
  • Socialise: Spending time with family, relatives and friends is beneficial for our mental health. Keep good spirits and socialise!
  • Manage your stress levels: Ikarians are not stressed-out folks. Do try to manage your stress levels to maintain your health and enjoy a longer life!

Let’s learn from Ikarians and adopt their way of life as much as we can! We may live longer and happier lives!

Magical Massage

Indulging in a massage is most of the best ways to experience a pampering treat. It helps you to unwind and relax, and it also contributes to the easing of tensions in your body.

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is more to massage than a simple treat though. It may have numerous health benefits if undertaken by well-trained massage therapists.

Diversity of Massages & Techniques

Massage can be applied to the full body, or targeted to areas such as the back, neck & shoulders or feet. The techniques are really diverse. Sometimes the techniques follow a traditional method and sometimes therapists offer their own signature treatments to their patients. Different massages have different focus areas and strength levels. They target different health concerns and have varied health benefits.

As far as technique is concerned, it may include light stroking movements all over the body or it may include the application of deep pressure. Massages tend to include pressing and rubbing of skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments. In order to undertake massage, therapists may use their hands, fingers, forearms, elbows and sometimes even their feet.

Well-known massages include traditional ones with thousands of years of history, including Ayurvedic Massage, Traditional Chinese Massage and Thai Massage. Other famous ones are recognised for their methods or benefits, including Shiatsu, Hot Stone Massage, Swedish Massage, Aromatherapy and Balinese Massage.

Balinese Massage O2 Spa Pinterest
O2 Spa, Pinterest

Benefits & Risks

For a range of medical conditions, massage is perceived as a complementary treatment. It may contribute to pain relief and reducing muscle tension in the body. The Mayo Clinic suggests that studies about massage found that they may be helpful to treat anxiety, digestive disorders, headaches, insomnia related stress, soft tissue strains, injuries, knots, joint pain and stiffness, amongst others.

Also, massages may have numerous benefits that you may want to take advantage of. These include:

  • enhancing the state of well-being
  • stimulating the immune system
  • increasing flexibility
  • improving muscle tone
  • stimulating blood flow
  • increasing dopamine levels (responsible for muscle movement, motivation and sensation of pleasure)
  • increasing serotonin levels (responsible for mood)
  • decreasing cortisol levels (aka “stress hormone”, which is responsible for physical, emotional and mental stress)
Massage escapes.hubpages.com

It may not be a good idea to have a massage if you suffer from bleeding disorders or if you take blood-thinning medication. If you have burns or wounds on your skin or bone fractures, massage is not appropriate for you, either.

If you have ever had deep vein thrombosis or suffered from severe osteoporosis, cancer or pain you need to consult a doctor before having a massage.

If you are pregnant, you may need to seek medical advice with regards to having a massage. It’s most likely that you need to go for a massage designed specifically for pregnant women. Such massages avoid certain types of essential oils (including nutmeg, rosemary, basil, jasmine, sage, rose, juniper berry) that may be harmful during pregnancy.

If during a massage you start to feel uncomfortable, always let your therapist know about the source of that discomfort. You may have sensitive areas that need to be avoided during the massage. Just let the therapist know, as a well-trained masseuse or masseur will know what to do.

In extreme circumstances massage can cause trouble, including nerve damage or internal bleeding. However, it is a very remote possibility. More likely perhaps is to have an allergic reaction to the essential oils that may be used during the massage. In any case, if you are in doubt or fearful, choose a gentle massage based on advice of your therapist or perhaps even consult your doctor before you have the massage.

The most important thing is to relax, enjoy the experience and savour its health benefits!

Pilates for Posture

Pilates, originally named “Contrology”, was devised by Joseph Pilates, in the early 20th Century. Its inventor believed that physical and mental health are interrelated and his method aimed to strengthen both the human body and the mind.

Soon after the elaboration of the method, it became popular in New York. Over time, the method spread across the world and became well-known as “Pilates”. It is recognised to be beneficial and effective in increasing the health and fitness levels of anyone, even those who have special conditions.

There are a few basic things to know about this method before hitting the mat or jumping on the specially-designed Pilates apparatus. Let’s see what are the things to know about Pilates to help you start.


What is Pilates?

Pilates is a comprehensive non-aerobic workout system. The focus of the Pilates body system is the core of the body, which is regarded as the powerhouse. This means that the Pilates method is devised to strengthen the centre of the body, to build endurance of the hips, back, abdominals, legs and arms and to improve flexibility, in particular of the spine and pelvis. Additionally, Pilates aims to improve the posture, balance and coordination of the body. The correct breathing technique is key in Pilates, too.

The Pilates method promotes perfect execution of the exercises. It does not demand a high number of repetitions, though. The method believes that less is more in case execution – with focus on each and every movement being done perfectly, with full concentration. Consequently, this method is known to improve concentration skills in addition to providing full physical conditioning.

Pilates can be used at all fitness levels. For beginners and for the unfit, it can be very gentle on the body. Its level of difficulty can be raised though, to intermediate and advanced levels. Once the higher intensity levels are reached, Pilates even challenges generally fit practitioners.


The Six Principles of Pilates 

Pilates has six important principles that every practitioner, beginner to advanced alike, should keep in mind. These are as follows:

  1. Concentration: Concentration and focus are required to achieve precise and smooth movements. The way the exercise is done is more important than the exercise itself.
  2. Control: Muscle control is key in the Pilates method, which must be retained throughout the exercise.
  3. Centre: The centre of the body, (i.e. the abdomen, lower and upper back, hips, buttocks and inner thighs) is always in focus for the method. All movement starts in the centre and flows toward the limbs.
  4. Flow: Pilates aims for perfect execution of each exercise, transitioning smoothly into the next. The aim is to achieve an elegant sequence of movements.
  5. Precision: Pilates promotes correct execution of each and every movement.
  6. Breathing: Proper and full inhalation and exhalation is necessary to cleanse and invigorate the body. The Pilates method promotes breathing to be directed laterally, into the lower rib cage. The deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles need to be engaged for both inhaling and exhaling. Furthermore, the proper breathing practice must coordinate with each and every movement that is executed.

What are the Benefits of Pilates? 

  • Pilates has a number of health benefits. Let’s see how you can benefit from practicing Pilates.
  • Pilates promotes whole-body fitness. While Pilates focuses on strengthening the core of the body, it also perceives it as a whole, promoting full-body strength, muscle development and flexibility. While Pilates pays attention to the harmony of body and mind, it promotes total wellness.
  • Pilates is suitable to all fitness levels, ages and various conditions. Pilates can be effectively used by starters, professional athletes, dancers and the elderly, too. It is a highly flexible fitness regime, which can be tailored to individual needs.
  • Pilates strengthens without bulking up muscle. Pilates strengthens deep muscles of the core and tones the body by creating long and lean muscles.
  • Pilates increases flexibility. Gentle stretching and bending is used to improve flexibility and joint movements.
  • Pilates creates a strong, supple back. It supports the frame of the body and promotes good posture. It also improves movement patterns and balance. It helps you move gracefully and with ease.
  • Pilates boosts energy levels by improving circulation, stimulating the muscles and contributing to better breathing practices.
Pilates - ::www.bodycontrolpilates.com:

All of these benefits will contribute to you feeling better and fitter. You will be able to control your body better. So, don’t hesitate to hit the mat or visit the nearest Pilates studio to try the apparatus under the supervision of a well-trained, specialised instructor.

What is Behind The Global Success of Zumba?

One of my favourite exercise types is Zumba. In today’s article I am going to give you a bit of insight into this fitness programme. If you can dance a bit or are used to other types of dynamic aerobic classes, it won’t be difficult for you. If you have never danced or participated in choreographed aerobic classes perhaps it will take a couple of occasions to be able to follow the routine. Don’t be shy or afraid of trying. Just give it a go and get hooked. It is fun!

Krista Oetjens, Pinterest

 Zumba = Fitness & Fun

Zumba is an exciting and dynamic fitness regime, which involves dance and aerobic elements. The programme includes steps from a range of dances including chachacha, cumbia, flamenco, soca, samba, salsa, merengue, mambo, reggaeton, rumba and tango. You may even find hip-hop, belly dance, Indian Bollywood and bhangra dance moves in a Zumba regime, as well as squats and lunges. It is sometimes fast-paced and sometimes slow and the various Zumba regimes vary. Instructors have the freedom to assemble their own routine, that’s why Zumba classes can be quite different. Nonetheless, all use the same steps and step combinations, so it is surprisingly easy to adapt to different classes run by different instructors, once you got the feel for it.

Zumba classes tend to be an hour long, just like normal aerobic classes. The fast and slow dance elements & the varying rhythms change, supporting cardio health. Most of the time they are accompanied by some resistance training, too. There are eight different Zumba class types, which suit different ages, fitness levels and fitness objectives. These include special classes like Zumba Gold, targeting the elderly; and Aqua Zumba for those who wish to exercise in the swimming pool. All of the regimes are done to high-energy music and their objective is to motivate you to exercise in a fun way. The key elements of Zumba is to have fun and stay fit.

Krista Oetjens, Pinterest

The Humble Start of a Global Success Story

Zumba was invented by a Columbian dancer and fitness instructor, Alberto “Beto” Perez. Stories about the origins of Zumba suggest that he substituted an injured aerobic instructor in a local gym in his Columbian home town, back in the 1990s. However, he forgot to take the tape with him. Fortunately, he had a Latin music tape in his backpack, so he decided to use that and improvise. His accidental dance aerobic class became an instant hit and a new style, “Rumbacise” set off on its successful journey. It was so successful, the gym kept it on its schedule. Fast forward a few years, Beto moved to Miami. He renamed and refined “Rumbacise”, teamed up with other entrepreneurial spirits and launched “Zumba”. Within a few years, the fitness regime of Beto had reached an audience in 150 countries and had become a widely popular programme all around the globe. As the company’s CEO and Marketing & Business Development Expert, Alberto Perlman suggests that Zumba: “offers South Beach coolness with classic Latin American and Colombian flavour, mixing them into something unique and distinctive”. This must be the core of Zumba’s worldwide success.


Zumba Today

Zumba is not only a widely popular fitness regime that you can practice in lots of local gyms all around the world. It is much more than that. It is a fitness empire – running under the name “Zumba Fitness” – which does not charge licensing fee from gyms but offers unique training and membership services to instructors. Within eight hours of formal training, anyone can become a licensed instructor for approximately USD 250. Once licensed, for a monthly membership fee, instructors may become members of the Zumba Instructor Network (ZIN). The ZIN provides fresh and unique choreography, new music choices, marketing support and a listing of vacancies for licensed instructors.

Zumba also offers its own clothing and footwear line and accessories, CDs, DVDs and Zumba-themed video games. The company commissions Latino musicians to create music for Zumba classes and nurtures young Latino artists, dancers and choreographers, too.

Krista Oetjens, Pinterest

Research Proves Benefits of Zumba

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science were mandated by the American Council on Exercise to conduct  scientific research on Zumba, to determine whether it is an effective form of physical exercise.

The researchers used volunteers regularly attending Zumba classes to determine exercise intensity and energy expenditure during class. Once the baseline fitness levels of volunteers had been determined, the volunteers regularly participated in Zumba classes equipped with heart-rate monitors. It transpired that an average of 369 calories are burnt during a Zumba class. Zumba therefore helps with weight loss or weight maintenance. The research suggests that it burns more calories than other types of exercise including cardio kickboxing, step aerobics and power yoga. The data suggested that Zumba boosts cardio endurance regardless of existing fitness level. Zumba proved to be a total-body exercise useful for core strengthening and improving flexibility, too.

Zumba is therefore not only fun but very effective in helping you achieve your fitness goals. If you have experience with Zumba, know about further benefits or just have an interesting story connected to a Zumba class, let us know!

Keep Yourself Balanced With BodyBalance

BodyBalance is an exercise regime of Les Mills, the global fitness company from New Zealand. It is a unique exercise concept, influenced by yoga, tai chi and Pilates. The aim of the approach is to build core strength, enhance flexibility, improve balance and contribute to mental and spiritual wellbeing. It is a truly holistic workout, which is attentive to physical strength and spiritual renewal, supporting a balanced life philosophy. As such, it is in perfect alignment with the outlook on life that Papaya Park is here to promote. Let’s take a closer look at BodyBalance.

BodyBalanceLes Mills

BodyBalance is a 55-minute workout (consisting of 45 minutes of exercise and 10 minutes of relaxation), which begins with a gentle Tai Chi routine to warm up the body via long, flowing moves. This is followed by a series of yoga poses, called Sun Salutations, which include 12 poses designed to develop core strength and to stretch muscles and spine. Sun Salutations also tone abdominals and contribute to the warm-up of the body. This is followed by standing yoga postures, including warrior and triangle poses, to strengthen and tone the body.

The next phase of the routine focuses on balance. It requires concentration to achieve balance in certain challenging poses. Nonetheless, it is fun and it improves stability, which is neglected within most of the modern exercise routines. The balance phase is followed by hip openers for supple hips. These yoga poses also help circulation in legs, help back pain and promote better posture. The next phase of the routine focuses on the core of the body, using Pilates exercises to strengthen abs and back. Thereafter, focus is given to twists and forward bends, which aid flexibility of the hamstring muscles and improve suppleness of the back.

The routine ends with 10-minutes of relaxation and meditation. This last part of the program is designed to enhance the impact of the routine and establish mental and spiritual balance in the body.

The various phases of the routine are accompanied by different music, reflecting the pace and style of the given element. The music tends to be very well chosen.

BodyBalance is updated every quarter. The choreography is modified and the music changes, so it ensuring that it never gets boring.

BodyBalance is not complicated but it is challenging and the moves are harmonic and beautiful. They leave you feeling relaxed and revived. At the end of the class your mental and physical balance feels restored.

As BodyBalance is an integrated and holistic routine, it has a number of benefits, it is worth giving it a go.

Benefits include the following:

  1. Improved flexibility of joints and muscles
  2. Supple spine and improved posture
  3. Enhanced core strength
  4. Better cardiovascular health
  5. Restored symmetry of the body and better stability
  6. Reduced stress levels, improved alertness, calmness and well-being

If you wish to take a brief look at the workout, watch the Les Mills video below.



I encountered BodyBalance earlier this year and right after the first class I felt that it was a perfect choice for me. Ever since I have been a fan and I go this class several times a week. I would encourage you to find your nearest Les Mills licensed gym, give it a go end enjoy the benefits!

Yoga for Body and Mind

Yoga has gained increasing popularity in recent decades. Something that health-gurus and exercise-fanatics rave about. It is can most readily be associated with harmony, relaxation, wellbeing, strength, flexibility and posture. Its fans claim all sorts of good things that yoga brought into their lives. But what is yoga exactly, what are its benefits and how easy is it to achieve all these benefits? Today’s post seeks to answer these questions and aims to inspire you to hit the mat.

What is yoga exactly?
Yoga is not simply a form of exercise. It is a collection of practices that boost your physical, mental and spiritual health. The exercise components of yoga focuses on core strength, flexibility and posture of your body. In addition, breathing practices are used to enhance your physical wellbeing as well as to contribute to your harmonious state of mind. These two essential components of yoga are called “asanas” and “pranayama”. “Asanas” refer to the various postures yoga uses, while “pranayama” refers to breathing techniques. In addition, meditation also plays an important role. The combination of these three components (asanas, pranayama and meditation) creates the unique wellbeing regime that is called yoga.


Yoga is an ancient art. It was invented approximately 5,000 years ago in India. As one of the main Hindu schools of philosophy, it was elaborated with the aim of finding permanent peace in life. Yoga arrived in the western world in the 19th Century but it only started to become popular in the 1980s. In the last couple of decades different yoga stiles have become widespread around the world. By now, it has millions of dedicated fans globally. Let’s see why…

Why is yoga so popular?
Yoga has many varieties and there are a range of therefore yoga classes, catering to a range of can accommodate anyone with basically any fitness levels. Everyone should be able to do at least basic postures and breathing techniques. With practice, everyone can improve his/her yoga skills compared to their baseline fitness level. Age does not matter, either. With the right instructor and a carefully chosen yoga regime, even older people can benefit from yoga.

Several scientific research studies have found positive findings about yoga. It is suggested that yoga can help keep high blood pressure in check and thereby it can lower the risk of heart attack. Further benefits include boosting fertility, protection from arthritis, combating migraine, improving posture and thereby easing back pain, keeping the spinal disks supple, strengthening bones and preventing osteoporosis. It can also get the blood flowing, increase the ability of the body to fight infections, lower blood sugar levels and LDL (bad cholesterol), while increasing HDL (good cholesterol). This list is far from being comprehensive.  It is intended just to give you a taste of how you can benefit from yoga.


The practice of yoga is also beneficial in terms of improving mental health. It teaches you to breath properly, relax, offering techniques to cope with stressful situations, anxiety, panic attack, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and supports the goals of better sleep better, greater alertness and developing better memory.

It may initially be hard to believe on just how many levels one can improve and develop, thanks to regular yoga classes. As a bottom line, practicing yoga will give you an understanding of the body & mind connection and help you achieve a better balance in your life. Given the stressful, urban lifestyles many of us live today, we can all benefit from it, in one way or another.