Sitting Like This Can Bring Major Health Benefits As You Age

It’s well-established that spending too much time sitting (ahem, working at a desk) could have an impact on our bodies. Sitting all day can decrease muscle strength and is linked to bad health outcomes like heart disease.

But is all sitting created equal?

Some folks say sitting on the ground is actually good for your health, and should be done regularly ― a concept that almost seems too good to be true.

Below, experts shared with HuffPost the pros and cons of sitting on the floor — and why no one posture is ideal.

Sitting cross-legged on the ground can be good for mobility and flexibility.

Most adults likely don’t often find themselves frequently sitting on the floor in the cross-legged position. But kids who regularly sit and play on the floor may be onto something.

“I really think from a health benefits or a musculoskeletal condition standpoint, that [cross-legged sitting] posture really does help us with … hip, low back and knee range of motion,” said Dr. Christopher Bise, an assistant professor in the department of physical therapy at the University of Pittsburgh. It also helps keep our lower body flexible, he said.

Dr. Jennifer O’Connell, a physiatrist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, added that “one of the problems with sitting in a chair is that it’s a position where your hamstrings tend to be tight — sitting in a cross legged position may help that somewhat.”

But if you aren’t able to get yourself down to the floor, you can still work on your mobility and flexibility.

“Remember that these positions don’t necessarily have to be on the floor. You can, on a couch, get in to the cross-legged sitting position, or you can use different sitting positions on the couch that will also increase your range of motion, as well,” Bise explained.

Having a good range of motion is important as you age.

Maintaining your range of motion is important for many reasons — you’ll be better able to get around your house, do your errands, and play with children and grandchildren as your years increase.

“But I think one of the things that happens when we get older is … we become less flexible because we begin to slow down ― but we don’t have to be less flexible,” Bise said.

“And when you think about the treatments you’re going to receive from a physical therapist … one of the first things they’re going to do is assess both your joint mobility and your muscle flexibility for the muscles around your joints and see how they’re moving,” Bise continued. “And when we have bones and joints and muscles that are inflexible, that are stiffer, we’re not going to move as well or as efficiently as we could.”

Going from sitting on the ground, to the chair, to walking and exercising is a great way to keep yourself mobile and flexible.

Plus, the ability to actually get into and out of a seated-on-the-floor posture is also important, Bise said. Older adults are prone to falls, he said, but if they have the ability to rise and lower to and from the floor, they’ll be more able to prevent falls in the future or get themselves up if need be.

Sitting on the ground can be a good way to maintain your range of motion and flexibility.

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Sitting on the ground can be a good way to maintain your range of motion and flexibility.

Sitting on the ground can work your core, too.

Sitting on the ground engages your core muscles in a way that just doesn’t happen when you’re sitting on a chair, according to O’Connell.

Without back support from a chair, your core muscles automatically turn on, she said.

“And then just the mere act of getting up from that position is beneficial for your whole body. You’re exercising your hips, your knees, your entire lower chain and your core in order to get up,” O’Connell explained.

But this doesn’t mean you should sit on the ground all the time.

You can try sitting on the ground for 30 minutes or so, but you should not plop down on the floor for the entire day.

“There’s a reason that your Apple Watch reminds you every 60 minutes to get up and start moving again … some of it is postural, some of it is just simple motion and getting calories going, but some of it is also changing postures as well,” Bise noted.

O’Connell said that she routinely tells her patients who work desk jobs to get up and move around — whether that’s walking to get a glass of water or just moving around the house.

“Before you know it, an hour to two hours have gone by, you didn’t get up and move. And although you didn’t really notice that because you were focused on tasks, your back did notice that,” O’Connell explained.

Sitting on the ground is not ideal for everyone.

“One reason where floor seating may be detrimental is if you have joint issues,” O’Connell said. “As a matter of reference, I have an issue where my hips don’t open up very well, so sitting in a traditional cross-legged position on the floor for me is very challenging.”

Additionally, people recovering from certain surgeries or injuries may also have trouble sitting on the ground.

“Just like with anything … check with your doctor before you start any type of exercise regimen,” O’Connell said. “But you can consult with a physical therapist, and they can give you strategies for getting up and down off the floor.”

While it’s good to put your body in different postures and positions, you shouldn’t do so if it’s not safe for you.

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