Why Sitting More On the Ground Can Transform Your Life
Human beings have been around for a long time. I am fond of saying that we look remarkably similar to the way we did even just ten thousand years ago. Our femurs are probably a little longer now, and we’re all a little fatter, but we would easily recognize ourselves in our proto-modern family members.
So what? Well, it turns out that early humans had a specific set of behaviors they considered normal. There’s little sense in taking a romantic view of our Paleolithic selves—nothing dreamy about the days when you could die from something as simple as an abscessed tooth. Yet we could all use some of what, borrowing a term from conservation biology, we like to call rewilding of the body. Rewilding, in general terms, is defined as “restoring and protecting natural processes.” Like any ecosystem, our bodies have an inherent design for optimal functioning.
This includes living, sleeping, eating, resting, and working on the ground. We used to do a lot more sitting (and sleeping) on the ground. In fact, the first chapter in our new book: Built To Move, is about this exact topic.
So today, we’ll answer a question for modern humans: Is sitting on the floor good for you?
Why Is Sitting On The Floor Important?
A recent study demonstrated that an excellent predictor of your overall mortality depends on how easily you can get up from a seated position without arm support.
This study found that the greater your score on this test, the longer you are likely to live. Theories as to why this is the case abound, but whether it’s the lower likelihood of injury by falling, or something to do with lower rates of arthritis and disease in a mobile person, the fact is, your ground game is a primary longevity factor.
The image here illustrates how to perform this task and see how you fare.
The Role of the Chair…
Since when did getting up off the ground become a marker of health and longevity? It all started with the chair. Believe it or not, the chair is a pretty recent invention that began to shape our modern behavior. This is according to University of California Berkeley Professor Dr. Galen Cranz in her 2013 book “The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design.”
In fact, a good two thirds of the world still opts out of using chairs, which may be why populations like the Chinese exhibit 80-90% less hip arthritis than westerners.
What we have come to understand about modern human physiology is that it’s “use it or lose it.” When it comes to different types of sitting positions on the floor, we’re clearly losing it.
Think about how much time we spend on the ground learning to overcome gravity as babies and children. Our entire physical structures relate to managing to get up and down off the ground. Children 12-19 months have been well documented getting up off of the ground 17 times an hour. That’s over 100 times a day!
And adults can have the same ability to stand without aid, as long as we’ll sit without chairs.
Sleeping On The Ground Is Good, Too
What’s good for the goose is also good for the gander. World Health Organization research has demonstrated that fall risk in the elderly who sleep on the ground is almost 20% lower than their western (raised bed sleeping) cohorts.
One of the proposed mechanisms for this difference is the strength and mobility required to get up off the ground. It’s not just the lower risk of falling off a raised bed, but the daily requirement to get up from the floor and to get down onto it.
There Are TONS Of Ways To Sit On The Ground
Sitting on the floor doesn’t only have to be sitting with your legs crossed. In fact, according to best-selling author and educator Katy Bowman, there is basically no wrong way to ground sit.
You can find her wonderful reference poster here that shows a variety of chair-free postures you can try. It doesn’t matter how you sit so long as you adopt the best posture for sitting on the floor.
Here at The Ready State, we have long believed and advocated for the most straightforward solution to complex problems.
The best place to start is under your feet. You’ll probably find that in the evening after dinner is the easiest time to do a little ground sitting. For example, instead of sitting on your couch, sit in front of your couch—in any shape that feels good.
You can even do so while you eat. There are potential benefits of sitting on the floor while eating, such as improved digestion.
Start slow. Aim for just five minutes to start. When your body tells you to move, move! Fidget. Change. It doesn’t matter.
You Can Even Work on the Ground
As a matter of human performance, sitting and even working on the ground for short periods during the day was built-in hip and leg tissue mobilization. I even found an inexpensive “laptop tray” made by our friends at Varidesk that made working on the floor almost “easy.” You can see how I use it in the video below.
Sitting on the floor may not only be a shortcut to better squat mechanics. Physician and author Phillip Beach’s wonderful book, “Muscles and Meridians” postulates that one of the ways the complex human body tunes itself is through ground-based resting postures.
What he is suggesting is that our bodies have long used ground-based sitting, working, and resting shapes and positions to restore our native mechanics and abilities to move freely.
You can see a talk he gave about this here:
Enjoy The Health Benefits Of Floor Sitting
What I like most about spending time on the ground is that it’s easy, portable, and very inexpensive. Let us know how much time you spend on the floor and what impact it has made in the comments!
And, if you want to better prepare your body for ground sitting, we have tons of content that can help you get there. Sign up for a free 14-day trial now to learn more.
Is sitting on the floor good for the body?
Floor-sitting shows promising improvement in one’s posture, core muscles, and range of motion. There are, however, varying degrees of comfort and physical conditions to consider when sitting on the floor. For some with lower back pain, prolonged floor-sitting can aggravate their symptoms.
Is it better to sit on the floor or a chair?
It depends on the person. Preferences, comfort, and body condition are key factors when choosing sitting positions.
Certain floor-sitting positions can improve posture or flexibility. But doing it for an extended period won’t be productive for people with back or mobility issues. In this case, chairs provide better support. Overall, chairs also provide a greater level of comfort.
What is the healthiest way to sit?
Regardless of how you sit on the floor, chair, or whatever surface, you need to:
- Keep a proper sitting posture. Sit up with your back straight.
- Stand up from time to time. Whenever possible, get up and move around. Include mobilizations if possible.
- Choose ergonomic furniture. If you’re sitting on a chair or sofa, an ergonomic choice can support your body and reinforce good posture.
What does sitting on the floor benefit?
There are several benefits of sitting on the floor, including:
- Improved flexibility in the hips, knees, and lower back.
- Better spinal alignment and overall posture
- Stronger, more engaged core
- Enhanced mobility and joint health
- Increased blood flow, tension release, improved bowel movement (potential benefits of sitting cross-legged on the floor)
How long should you sit on the floor?
There’s no exact answer–especially if you want to focus on reaping floor-sitting benefits. Consider your comfort and flexibility first.
Initially, try sitting on the floor for shorter periods. Increase the duration as your body adapts to the new position. Don’t forget to switch positions and take breaks once you’ve adapted to prolonged floor-sitting.
Learn more about incorporating guided mobility exercises tailored to your body and lifestyle to relieve pain, prevent injury, and improve your range of motion and performance today.