Sit on the Floor

I challenge you to spend more time sitting on the floor! That might sound ridiculous to some of you, but stay with me, and I'll explain why you should try this. When we are little (like my 1 year old daughter pictured here), sitting on the ground is natural and comfortable. Somehow after years of sitting at desks, in chairs, and on couches, sitting on the floor starts to feel much less natural and comfortable. Here are some of the reasons that I think it is important for all of us to try sitting on the floor. 

Sitting on the ground => movement when you aren’t “trying to move”.

Most people think of exercise as something they should do for 30-60 minutes/day. What they don't think about, is what their bodies are doing the other 23 plus hours/day.  I encourage you to find ways to move during more of your waking hours. Sitting on the ground is a great way to do that! If you took a time lapse video of me sitting on my couch for 2 hours and sitting on the ground for 2 hours, you will see MUCH more movement while on the ground. (Note: ground and floor are used interchangeably - it does not matter if you are inside or outside).

What Happens When You Sit on the Couch or Comfortable Piece of Furniture?

Sitting or lying on the couch is so “comfortable” that you can turn off all of your major muscle groups and sink into being super sedentary. You might even put yourself in a compromised position where certain joints like your sacrum are tucked in a very unnatural way. Because of the comfy couch cushions, it doesn’t phase you. 

What Happens When You Sit on the Floor?

Think about the time lapse videos that I mentioned above. You would notice that I’d constantly be moving in my floor position. Yes this is because maybe it is slightly “uncomfortable,” but this will cause my body to want to constantly shift to find more comfort! It also keeps my muscles and my core engaged. This leads to much more MOVEMENT and MUSCLE ENGAGEMENT even during my “sedentary time”. The time lapse video will resemble a nice long “stretching session”. Picture people who stretch at the gym- one leg outstretched, then the other, both in like a butterfly, etc. I would come to all of these positions at some point during a long bout of sitting. While I may not have time to spend an extra 2 hours stretching at the gym, I do have 2 hours that I already would have spent playing with my daughter and watching a TV show. If I am on the ground for these activities, I can kill two birds with one stone and move a bit more instead of being completely still! 

When Should You Sit On the Floor? 

Find a time to sit on the floor during any of your normal activities. It could be watching a TV show or movie at home, playing with kids, or even when doing computer work. Doing some computer work is a necessary part of my job, and I often sit on the floor and do this. Isn't this a bad ergonomic position? My answer to this is a bit unconventional. I used to think that having a perfect ergonomic work set up was the best way to avoid overuse injuries. The problem with having a "perfect ergonomic set up" is that it is more comfortable, and this allows a person to not move. When a person is a bit less comfortable, they tend to move more and take more breaks. Honestly, I don't believe that there is any good way to do hours and hours of seated computer work on a daily basis. 

Think about what our ancestors used to do....

I like to think about how humans lived thousands and thousands of years ago. In the last 100 years, we have come to expect the convenience and comfort oriented lifestyle that has become standard for us. A quick google search shows that the couch was invented in 1895 and the recliner was invented around 1928. Clearly humans have been around for much longer than this and survived without these comfort items. Many would argue that they were stronger and fitter than most people in our country today. 

What Position Should You Sit In?

You don't need to pick a position. Keep moving through ALL OF THE POSITIONS! That is the beauty of this, you don't stay in any one position for a long time when sitting on the ground. Rather, you sit in a position, and then you get tired of that one, you move to another. Here is an article by one of my favorite authors, Katy Bowman that discusses these concepts and contains an interesting graphic showing many different positions! She mentioned in one of her recent podcasts that she tried for years to improve her squat form, and incorporating ground sitting into her day is what finally gave her the hip mobility for a proper squat. 

What If You Can't Sit On the Floor?

For many people, sitting on the floor is tough, but that doesn't let you off the hook for trying this challenge.  Here are some ideas for those of you who can’t immediately sit on the floor. Try this progression, and feel the difference in how your body is engaged.
  • Sit on a harder chair
  • Sit on a chair with no back (forces you to engage core)
  • Sit on progressively lower chairs or stools (this might resemble sitting on a stump from the ancestral perspective)
  • Sit on the floor with some pillows around/under you. While these are still “comfort items” this could be a gentler transition from the couch to the floor.

Are You Up For the Challenge?

It can feel awkward and be a bit uncomfortable at first, but give it a try. It is amazing how quickly you get used to it. Over time, if you spend a significant amount of time sitting on the floor, you will notice improvements in your mobility and core strength! Katy Bowman, the inspiration for this idea that I mentioned above, has taken this so far that she no longer has furniture in her house!  I am not saying that you need to take it to that extreme, but give floor sitting a try, and let me know how it goes! One of the easiest ways to move more is to remove the modern conveniences that keep you from moving (like that comfortable furniture!). 
Dr. Jamie