In 2009, Albert Lea, a small Minnesotan city of 18,000 residents, began to change.

Led by Dan Buettner's Blue Zones research, the town took part in a vitality project that focused on improving wellbeing and increasing longevity in the community. A team of experts helped the town make a number of lifestyle changes, including encouraging local restaurants and grocery stores to serve fresher and healthier foods, coaching residents about life purpose, creating more bicycle- and foot-friendly commuter routes, and increasing healthy options offered by workplace vending machines.

The results of this pilot project were astounding: Buettner estimates that Albert Lea residents increased their life expectancy about 3 years each as a result of this community-based change! The financial impact was significant, as well, reducing absenteeism by key employers by 21% and decreasing healthcare costs of city employees by 40%.

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