Wellness & lifestyle coaching gives you the confidence and tools to take charge of your health and wellbeingIn a previous post I wrote about the role that the Mount Athos monks’ diet is believed to play in their unusually long and healthy lives. But it’s not just food; lifestyle elements also have a crucial role to play, including lack of stress, meaningful work, physical activity and, in the monks’ case at least, celibacy.

Let’s start with exercise and physical activity. You won’t find many labour-saving devices in the monasteries so the monks do pretty much everything manually, and much of their work is physical – from fishing to working in the fields and odd jobs around the monasteries. They don’t own cars and while there are minibuses, they are infrequent so the monks have a two to three hour walk into town.

The monks are lucky to live a virtually stress-free life which is likely to be one of the reasons for their very low rate of heart disease and cancers. Any stress the monks do feel is let go of, rather than carried around to build up. The monks are fortunate to be able to work short days; most of the work is done between 10am and 2pm and the remainder of the time is spent in prayer and creative pursuits such as winemaking, beekeeping, fishing, baking etc.

One of the greatest strengths of the monks way of life is the support network between the brotherhood (and of course their strong faith), so there is always someone non-judgmental and empathetic to talk with.

There are no women on Athos which makes it easier for the monks to lead such an ascetic, celibate lifestyle. Although statistics show that single/unmarried men have higher rates of chronic illness than non-single men, the monks reap the benefits of their strong and supportive brotherhood. However, according to other studies celibacy doesn’t confer any health benefits (other than removing any risks from sexually transmitted diseases).

Top lifestyle tips to live like the Mount Athos monks

  1. Take every opportunity to be more active – and think of it as helping you stay active, agile and happy rather than being a chore. You can leave the car at home and choosing to walk (or cycle) more places, taking stairs rather than lifts and escalators, doing more odd jobs around the house and garden (using “old fashioned” tools rather than “new fangled” devices). If you haven’t been active in a while, it’s a good idea to check in with your GP or health professional first for a check up.
  2. Stress is endemic in our society and one of the biggest killers. Of course, we can’t all live a stress-free life like the monks, nor work short days just to pursue our passions, but it does show the importance of making time in our busy lives for the things that give us enjoyment, fulfillment and meaning like spending more time with family and friends, working on hobbies, scheduling a massage, doing volunteer work etc.
  3. Still on managing stress, try to simplify your life – or,  if that doesn’t feel possible for you, get some support to help you manage, whether that means assistance with childcare, household chores, delegating work etc.


Source: The Mount Athos Plan, published in The Observer newspaper