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Eat, Move, Sleep: How to optimize health, according to Tom Rath 

Tom Rath is an expert on employees’ engagement, wellbeing, and strengths, and the author of New York bestselling book Eat Move Sleep, which is a detailed and holistic account of how we can use these three activities to optimize our health. One of his motivations for writing this book is a rare illness he has, which can’t be cured, and which deteriorates his health on a cellular level – making it all the more important that he makes good choices himself. 

Today we are going to look at some of the key ideas from his book, and what he recommends we do to stay healthy, vibrant, and alive. 

Eat: Moment-to-moment choices

Eating is one of the most fundamental activities we need to perform on a daily basis in order to survive. It is obvious, then, that what we eat matters just as much as that we eat. Tom does not recommend an overly strict regime or diet to solve what might be called fueling problems, but rather, to stay mindful of the moment-to-moment choices we make in terms of what food and drink we put into our bodies. It’s not like anyone forces these things into our bellies (hopefully). 

For every sip of coke you take, it’s all a new choice you make. The same goes for water, is it goes for burgers and pizzas and fruits and vegetables. 

Move: Cavemen, energy, and the viewpoint of a chiropractor in Norway

The next thing Tom highlights is movement. Humans are made to move; for hundreds of thousands of years, cavemen had to walk between eight to 16 kilometers per day, just to have enough food to survive until the next day – where it would all start again. Sitting still all day at our desk, perhaps moving a kilometer or two if we’re really active, is therefore not very natural to the way we have evolved. 

Contrary to popular belief, walking, running, or exercising does not diminish our energy; it increases it, and if we could only move past those first initial weeks or months that it takes to form a new habit of exercise – however big or small – a whole swath of people would rediscover the strength and the vigor that our predecessors felt in daily life. 

Furthermore, it is not just an increased amount of energy that can be gained from exercising regularly; our body’s structure needs it to be healthy. Daniel Dyrstad forms part of the staff of a multidisciplinary health center, Norklinikken, that is situated in the southwest of Norway. He operates the department for chiropractors, Kiropraktor i Sandnes, and in one of his biannual online seminars for chiropractors, he actually referenced Tom Rath, backing him up in his arguments for good overall health. He said that “if the bones and the muscles are supposed to function properly – for athletes as well as for the elderly – then we must get enough rest, and eat food that is good for our bodies.”

Sleep: 97.5% of us need 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep

Towards the end of the book, Tom shares some significant findings from an experiment that was done on sleep. Some researchers wanted to find out whether people have a set amount of hours that they sleep, and a set time for when they sleep, if they are robbed of sunlight and time. 

Putting a bunch of volunteers into cellars without windows over an extended period of time, the researchers discovered that 97.5% of the volunteers slept naturally for 7.5 to 9 hours each night (after initially getting used to not having any sunlight or time to tell the clock). Any less, and they would start feeling lethargic, and cognitive processes would weaken; any more, and they would feel groggy and heavy. 

And the remaining 2.5%? Well, these seemed to thrive quite well on either less than 7.5 hours or more than 9 hours. But the point Tom makes, is that most people – despite being among the 97.5% who need 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep each night – actually sleep only 6 to 7 hours. And it’s not very likely that all the people who say they are among the 2.5% are. 

For now: What’s one idea that stood out to you the most? And what can you do to start living by it just a little bit more? 

If the ideas in this article resonated with you, we recommend that you check out more of Tom Rath and his work.