Public health officials have made it pretty clear that we’re living in a sedentary crisis. The numbers are grim: 80% of American jobs could now be classified as “sedentary,” and the average American now sits eight hours a day.
So why on earth would we encourage you to sit some more? Because all sits aren’t created equal. Slumping on a couch or hunching over a screen isn’t the same as sitting in the middle of the floor, which requires you to engage your core muscles and keep a straight back.
The benefits of floor-sitting
In their book Built to Move, mobility gurus Juliet Starrett and Kelly Starrett extoll the virtues of sitting on the floor for at least 30 cumulative minutes per day. When practiced regularly, seated positions are actually capable of restoring hip and low back function, stretching out tissue in the hamstrings and calves, and upping one’s “movement capacity,” a term to describe the degree of movement available to a person at a given time. The average American’s movement capacity has taken a hit in recent years, which is more or less the reason everyone’s back hurts.
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Fidgeting = good
One of the reasons the Starretts want people to get on the floor or ground (while watching TV, or talking on the phone, or drinking tea), is because the action inevitably results in fidgeting. “We want you to fidget and change positions while on the floor because it gives you the opportunity to rotate your hips into different end ranges, take pressure off your tissues, and avoid stiffness and pain,” they write in the book. “Your brain is going to tell you to move around while you’re on the floor, and that’s exactly what we think you should be doing.”
It might seem hard to believe, but a practice as simple as rotating from side to side on the floor, in an unconscious effort to get comfortable, is going to impact your movement capacity, blood circulation, proprioception and even muscle strength. (Either directly, or down the line — it’s easier to throw weight around in the gym when your body works).
Some positions to try
Thirty minutes on the floor may seem like a lot, but that sum is more manageable if you break it up into increments throughout the day. And if sitting on the living room carpet like a kindergartener isn’t particularly inspiring, try “habit stacking”: go sit on a track, in a park or at the beach (to get your outside time in, too). Some positions to know in order to get started: cross-legged sitting (the classic), 90/90 sitting, long sitting, and one-leg-up sitting (excuse that man’s fedora in that last pic).
You get the picture: sitting doesn’t have to be a scourge. It can be a superpower, if only it’s done right.