Kevin J. Miyazaki
By day Dawn Thompson sits at her computer, managing human resources tasks for long-term care facilities. But at night the Albert Lea resident cha-chas through calorie-burning routines with a ballroom dance group. She's lost a total of 30 pounds and made new friends: "It's just exhilarating," she says.
Thompson, 52, has danced for years but intensified her efforts after getting involved in the AARP/Blue Zones Vitality Project, sponsored by the United Health Foundation. Launched in May 2009 and based on lessons learned from "blue zones" — regions of the world where people tend to have long life spans — the project helped the town's 18,000 residents eat better, become more active, connect with one another, and find purpose.