Exploring the health benefits of traditional floor seating

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29th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) In an era dominated by desk jobs and digital devices, the sedentary lifestyle is increasingly scrutinised for its health implications. Common wisdom suggests that prolonged sitting, especially in office chairs, is linked to a range of negative health outcomes, including weakened muscle strength and cardiovascular issues. However, a shift towards traditional floor seating might offer a surprising countermeasure, promoting flexibility and mobility.

The modern Western lifestyle rarely incorporates floor sitting, which is more commonly seen in cultures around the world and throughout history. Children often naturally sit on the floor, suggesting a built-in preference for this posture that adults might overlook. Dr. Christopher Bise, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Physical Therapy, advocates for the cross-legged or “lotus” position, noting its benefits for hip, lower back, and knee mobility.

Dr. Jennifer O’Connell, a physiatrist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, contrasts this with the tightness in hamstrings often observed in those who frequently use chairs. She points out that adopting a cross-legged position, even on a couch, can mitigate some of these issues by enhancing flexibility.

Maintaining a good range of motion is crucial, particularly as one ages. Dr. Bise highlights the importance of flexibility for everyday activities—ranging from household chores to interacting with younger family members. Physical therapists often begin treatment by assessing joint mobility and muscle flexibility, which are critical for efficient movement.

Transitioning between sitting on the ground and standing is also beneficial. This action engages the core muscles more than sitting in a chair and involves the entire lower body, which is essential for overall strength and balance. This is particularly relevant for older adults, as improved mobility can reduce the risk of falls.

Despite the advantages, floor seating isn’t universally beneficial. Dr. O’Connell notes that individuals with certain joint issues or those recovering from surgery might find floor seating challenging or uncomfortable. It’s essential for anyone considering a change in their seating arrangement to consult with a healthcare provider.

Moreover, while sitting on the floor for short periods can be beneficial, it is not advisable to remain seated in any position for too long. Movement is crucial, and even small actions like getting up to fetch a glass of water can help mitigate the risks associated with prolonged inactivity.