How often do you find yourself sitting on the floor in your day-to-day life? It turns out, sitting on the floor, while it may not be the most comfortable, is a simple way to improve your longevity.
According to Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner, cultures that tend to keep their furniture to a minimum and therefore spend a lot more of their time seated cross-legged on the floor experience evident health benefits. “The longest-lived women in the history of the world lived in Okinawa, and I know from personal experience that they sat on the floor,” he explained. “I spent two days with a 103-year-old woman and saw her get up and down from the floor 30 or 40 times, so that’s like 30 or 40 squats done daily.”
These observations aren’t just anecdotal. The European Journal of Preventative Cardiology published a study that suggests that individuals who were the least able to complete the sitting-rising test, which assesses one’s ability to stand up without the help of any other limbs from a seated, cross-legged position, were five or six times more likely to die than those who were best able to complete it.
“It is well known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival, but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio, and coordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favorable influence on life expectancy,” said lead researcher Claudio Gil Araújo in a press release.
The motion of moving from a seated position on the floor to a standing position many times a day will strengthen core muscles and improve balance, which are two factors that can improve and extend your musculoskeletal fitness and mobility in general. One of the top causes of unintentional injury-related death for those over the age of 65 is accidentally falling, which becomes less likely if you continually strengthen your musculoskeletal fitness.
Another positive aspect of being able to sit down and stand back up from the floor relatively easily is that “it’s a wonderful sign of overall structural, skeletal health, and muscular balance and alignment,” said body alignment specialist Lauren Roxburgh.
Many of us will agree that we spend too much of our lives sedentary at our desks, hunched over laptops in a not-so-ergonomic environment. “Getting out of your chair and sitting cross-legged onto the floor can help realign your body, center your sitz bones, and engage your core stability—improving strength, natural flexibility, and overall movement,” she added.
However, this doesn’t mean you can just sit on the floor willy-nilly and expect to reap all these benefits. Roxburgh emphasizes the importance of paying attention to your posture if you want to start sitting on the floor more often. “Avoid slouching, which can increase pressure and lower back pain,” she explained. “Make sure you also keep your weight centered over your hips, so you reduce the pressure in your ankles and feet.”
According to Roxburgh, the best strategy for floor-sitting is to sit on a cushion, the edge of a folded blanket, or a soft and squishy exercise ball, as this will help “raise your hips slightly for better alignment.
“If you want to start practicing floor-sitting more often but aren’t ready to rid your home of chairs, then perhaps consider investing in lower furniture, which will work your muscles more, or just decluttering by getting rid of a few armchairs or seats. Basically, the best way to maintain your skeletal health to boost your longevity is by mixing it up for yourself and creating “continual postural shifts throughout the day [as you’re able],” said Roxburgh. “So, sitting on the floor and periodically doing long, deep squats are a great way to boost circulation, blood flow, and energy, increase flexibility and range of motion, create space, and build some deeper awareness of your body while helping you feel grounded.”