Have you ever heard that sitting on the floor is one of the best ways to stay active, live long and be healthy? It may seem silly or even impossible because right now it’s not easy for you to get up and down from the floor.
And that points right to the problem for many of us – we’ve lost the muscle strength and range of motion in our joints not because of how long we’ve lived, but from spending way too many of those years sitting in just one shape. It’s the same shape whether we’re sitting on a chair, in the car, on a bike or on the couch.
As biomechanist Katy Bowman writes, “The problem isn’t sitting or standing, but the constant and continuous use of a single position.”
There are many good reasons to sit on the floor. It’s a common and traditional way to sit in many cultures and spiritual practices. According to an article about the longevity of people living in Blue Zones around the world:
“Okinawan centenarians sit and get up from the floor dozens or hundreds of times per day. This exercises their legs, back, and core in a natural way as they get up and down all day long. Sitting on the floor also improves posture and increases overall strength, flexibility, and mobility.”
If those benefits aren’t enough for you to consider sitting on or nearer to the floor more often, take a look at this scientific study that correlates the “ability to sit and rise from the floor without support” with a longer life expectancy.
“Many goldeners find getting down to the ground and back up again daunting, so if you’re one of them, rest assured you’re in good company,” Katy writes in her book, Dynamic Aging.
Can you imagine feeling comfortable and confident enough to sit on the floor to eat dinner, watch a movie or when visiting friends in their homes?
Katy Bowman says our environments shape us, especially at home. “Our beds, couches, and chairs, as comfortable as they are, prevent us from making it down to the floor. And so we must slowly start using our body in ranges of motion that have been stifled by use of furniture, until we redevelop enough strength in our legs, hips, and arms to carry us more easily.”
You’re already getting down and up multiple times each day – from chairs, car seats and toilets. How you do it makes all the difference to which muscles you are strengthening. You need to intentionally engage your backside (glutes and hamstrings) to rise up to standing. The best way to build better get-up techniques is to practice them as an exercise before you drop down to the floor.
Try this Chair Squat:
By now, you might be convinced that sitting all the time is a sure path to pain, stiffness and poor health. But you may think you don’t really sit that much each day. If you want to find out, there’s an easy way to calculate your sedentary minutes per day.
I actually decided to write this blog after I came across the results of my own calculations from September, 2016. That’s when I was still working fulltime, commuting long-distance to a fluorescent-lit cubicle.
At that time, I spent 150 minutes each day commuting, 420 minutes sitting at work, 90 minutes eating, 120 minutes watching movies or reading books for entertainment. For a total of a stunning 81% of my day spent on my butt with my legs bent 90 degrees at the ankles, knees and hips.
When I saw that percentage, I immediately requested two “work from home” days each week. (This was long before the pandemic. There’s far more remote work and less commuting for many people now.) On those days, I would only sit 65% of my day. That was when I began to plan my retirement and started my training as a movement teacher!
There are 1440 minutes in a day. Calculate the number of your usual minutes spent sleeping. Subtract that number from 1440 and that is your minutes awake each day. Now, add up the total of your usual sedentary/sitting minutes each day. All the driving, eating, reading, working, movie-watching minutes.
Calculate your daily percentage of sedentary time by dividing the total sitting minutes by the total awake minutes. Your percentage may shock you into doing something different sooner than later. It did for me. I applied to become a Restorative Exercise instructor and here we are.
If your daily sedentary percentage is higher than you imagined, it’s time to update your sitting habits. Squat into all your chairs, gradually lower your seat, eventually sit on the floor. Go slowly and see what happens! Being sedentary most of the time is not for our bodies or our minds.
Why do you or don’t you sit on the floor? What gets you up and out of your chair? What’s your assessment of your sitting situation?
Tags Healthy Aging