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 there are some pretty specific human behaviors that were normal to everyone on the planet not that long ago. Living, sleeping, eating, resting, and working out the ground is one of the big ones. That’s right. We used to do a lot more sitting (and sleeping) on the ground.
Why Is Sitting On the Ground Important?
It turns out sitting on the ground is still important. A recent study demonstrated that an excellent predictor of your overall mortality was the ease in which you can get up from a seated position without using your arms. 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 becomes 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 says University of California Berkeley Professor Dr. Galen Cranz in her 2013 book “The Chair: Rethinking Culture, Body, and Design.”
What we have come to understand about modern human physiology is that it’s “use it or lose it.” When it comes to being on the floor comfortably, it is a clear issue of 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 over 100 times a day!
Sleeping On The Ground Is Good, Too
What’s good for the development of the goose is also good for the gander. World Health Organization research has demonstrated that fall risk in the elderly that 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.
There Are TONS Of Ways To Sit On The Ground
Sitting on the ground doesn’t have to mean only cross-legged. 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.
Here at The Ready State, we have long believed and advocated for the most straightforward solution to complex problems. If you aren’t sitting on the ground yet, the best place to start is…to sit on the floor. 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. Shoot for just five minutes to start and 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, we found years ago that 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 short-cut 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:
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.