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The Fitness Factor

The Minnesota Miracle

The extraordinary story of how folks in this small town got motivated, got moving, made new friends, and added years to their lives.

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— Kevin J. Miyazaki/Redux

Brian's life is becoming sweeter (sans sugar) as well. "At night now I think to myself, 'I'd rather go out walking than sit here alone.' And I now average 12,000 steps a day."

His mother is excited and relieved by the changes in her son's life. "People are stopping me on the street and saying, 'Isn't it wonderful about Brian?' "

As for Jan, she and her husband, Rory, 67, are eating more fruits and vegetables as well. "And I cook with olive oil instead of butter," she says. "Sometimes Rory complains about the smaller portions, but he's getting used to it."

For Brian, however, the Vitality Project changed far more than his waistline. It reinvigorated his outlook on life. "I took a purpose workshop, and it reminded me that I'm good at what I do—I have a natural talent to do social work," he says. "These days at work I'll try something off-the-wall, a new technique with a kid I'm helping. And I'm really pumped up about a role I have in a community-theater play. It's small, but I haven't done theater here in 15 years, and it's something I love. It's just incredible how much better I feel. About everything."

Dan Buettner is the author of The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who've Lived the Longest.

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