"Researchers have estimated that 90 percent of us could live to age 90 with some simple lifestyle choices…. The sum of your habits determine your lifespan."
It is no longer possible to separate our personal habits from our professional output, as recent research has made it overwhelmingly clear that our overall health and wellness is directly correlated to our ability to contribute meaningfully in our professional and personal spheres. For this reason, the research compiled by Tom Rath in Eat Move Sleep is both compelling and reassuring, as it is small, daily habits that solidify healthier diet choices, deliberate and frequent movement and more consistent, restful sleep that lead us to become our best selves and thus our strongest contributors.
While it may be uncomfortable at first to look inward to affect outward results, Rath’s work provides compelling research, actionable insight and encouraging incentive to kick start a healthier, more productive you.
The Big Idea
Healthy consistency breeds consistent health
"Eat right. Move more. Sleep better. When you do these three things in combination, you will see how the overall benefit is greater than the sum of its parts."
While on the surface these ideas may not seem earth shattering, where many of us fail is our inability to ensure consistency in all three categories. Consistency allows for overall wellbeing, a defense against common illness and diseases, and an elimination of barriers that, if left unchecked, ultimately result in low productivity, lack of inspiration and maintenance of the status quo. With deliberate action and a commitment to good daily decisions, we are able to form long lasting habits that perpetuate a healthy cycle of behaviors. Rath calls for consistency in the following three areas:
Eat: “Every bite is a net loss or a net gain. Think before you eat.”
Every meal influences your body’s ability to function properly. The combination of nutrients either fuels your body for success or taxes it in a way that decreases your ability in output in a meaningful way. By striving for consistency in our healthy consumption choices, we are committing to feeling our best to produce our best.
Move: “Inactivity now kills more people than smoking.”
Incorporating movement into our daily lives is becoming increasingly harder with the surge of sedentary 9-5 roles. However, the research embedded in Eat Move Sleep demonstrates that by failing to move our body throughout the day, we put ourselves at a greater risk of poor health, despite our commitment to a weekly exercise regime. Consistency in movement promotes health of our mind and body.
Sleep: “When you lose an hour of sleep, it decreases your wellbeing, productivity, health and ability to think.”
The amount of sleep each person requires for full productivity is unique to them, as an individual; however, the common thread here is that whatever that number may be we must implement behaviors that allow for that consistency in reaching that need daily, as even an hour can have a negative impact on our overall contribution.
Set yourself up for success
"Create a culture of health around you"
Capturing motivation when it strikes can be the key to consistency; Rath advocates for implementing small tweaks to your everyday environment that makes healthy, positive choices intuitive for your future self, when that motivation is less present. He recommends following tweaks:
Eat: “Organize items so the best choices are the first thing you see and the easiest to reach”.
Otherwise known as the old adage out of sight, out of mind, Rath reminds readers that by placing healthier items within reach and at eye level, we are more likely to grab for those first. Removing unhealthy items from within eye level or from the home altogether will greatly improve your chances of opting for health.
Move: “Emerging research suggests companies that provide employees with time to exercise, even during working hours, do not lose any business”.
Compared to 1951 study, only 20% of jobs today require real activity, compared to 50%+ in 1951. This draws attention to the need for employers and employees alike to put conscious effort into creating daily activity. Rath advocates for regular breaks to boost productivity, standing desks to discourage prolonged sitting and hitting 10,000 steps a day to promote active blood flow and muscle engagement throughout the day.
Sleep: “That exposure to bright light before bedtime decreased the beneficial effect of melatonin by 90 minutes compared with dim light exposure”.
Creating positive habits around our bedtime routine is imperative for a healthy, productive lifestyle. Limiting screen exposure is key, by setting a firm “shut off” time daily for smartphones, TV and computers you allow yourself to prepare for quality sleep. Furthermore, research proves that limiting light within your bedroom can also promote a positive sleep environment.
Accountability is key
"Measurement itself creates improvement"
By committing to forming small daily habits and consistent measurement, we will undoubtedly see improvement, as the act of measuring your success creates accountability and encourages results. Rath shares motivation for accountability in these three categories:
Eat: “People make their best food decisions at 7am, get a little worse by 10am, get even worse by 4pm, then worsen by the hour”.
By planning your meals ahead of time and tracking your ability to stick to the plan, research indicates that this alone will support you in your health goals. The added accountability of having to record your actions is enough to encourage your current self to make your future self proud.
Move: “A simple check in from another person nearly doubled each participant’s activity over the span of the year”.
Eat Move Sleep shares compelling research for creating a system of accountability, especially around activity. Whether it is a work out buddy, a trainer or a measurement date such as a “weigh-in” or task performance, these tools are able to encourage activity and progress on days of waning motivation.
Sleep: “On average the best performers slept 8 hours and 36 minutes”.
Adding a routine and tracking the quantity and quality of your sleep adds a level of consciousness to this daily activity. Rath advocates for committing to a schedule, this ensures you wake every morning as your best self; productive, alert and focused.
Eat Move Sleep is a game changer for those clinging to the status quo. Regardless of your motivator, be it health or productivity, these habits are proven to bring results. By adding a level of consistency, accountability and consciousness to our consumption, activity and sleep habits, we are able to improve our health indicators, boost our productivity and ensure overall wellness.