The American life is a sitting life. We devour meals sitting down.
We travel to work sitting down in a car or train (unless we’re feeling chivalrous). We work at our desks sitting down. We come home to watch Netflix, while, you guessed it, sitting down.
We’re comfortable and privileged people. But there’s a catch.
If you sit or lie down for too long, you may develop chronic health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, and some types of cancer (1). It can also impair your mental health (2).
Nevertheless, correcting the imbalance can be easier by observing other cultures, who squat or kneel more often than they sit.
Specifically, performing a deep squat requires (and promotes) hip flexibility and makes it an excellent stretching exercise if you’re habitually seated.
In one such cultural example, researchers found Hadza (ethnic tribe) members exercised every day for at least an hour, but rest up to 10 hours a day, making them as sedentary as us.
Despite this, none of the Hadza were afflicted with chronic diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle, such as metabolic syndrome and prediabetes (3).
What does this mean? What were they doing differently?
Researchers theorize that this is because the Hadza don’t sit on chairs often. They instead squat down or kneel, which allows the body to rest while still maintaining flexibility and keeping us upright with our muscles.
Interestingly, the scientists found that Hadzas can remain healthy at rest by squatting and simultaneously exercise more muscle groups than sitting on a chair.
Standing in a deep squat will give your back, hips, and legs much more activity, undoing the damage of a sedentary lifestyle.
Further, you’ll be able to sit down on the floor and stand quickly– that limberness could help you live longer (4).
Even though this is clearly impractical at work, you can work on this at home while watching the streaming service of your choice.
How to deep squat
Try standing with feet shoulder-width apart and crouching down rather than hopping on the sofa to become a couch potato.
During this technique, you’ll most likely stand on the balls of your feet but can touch the ground for balance. Try holding this position for 30 seconds at a time if it’s painful to hold for any length of time.
After some practice, you’ll be able to keep your feet on the floor while crouching and loosening your hips while watching TV for minutes at a time.
Exercises such as this will help you strengthen your muscles, enhance your mobility, and keep you healthy for longer life (5).
To further develop your lower-body muscles such as your glutes, quadriceps, and thighs, you can do lower-body resistance training.
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- Owen, Neville, et al. “Too Much Sitting: The Population Health Science of Sedentary Behavior.” Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2010, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3404815/.
- Daneshmandi, Hadi, et al. “Adverse Effects of Prolonged Sitting Behavior on the General Health of Office Workers.” Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, Yonsei University Wonju College of Medicine, July 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5618737/.
- Gersema, Emily. “Squatting and Kneeling May Be Better for Your Health than Sitting.” USC News, 28 Apr. 2020, news.usc.edu/166572/squatting-kneeling-health-sitting-usc-research/.
- Brito LB;Ricardo DR;Araújo DS;Ramos PS;Myers J;Araújo CG; “Ability to Sit and Rise from the Floor as a Predictor of All-Cause Mortality.” European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23242910/.
- H;, Kubo K;Ikebukuro T;Yata. “Effects of Squat Training with Different Depths on Lower Limb Muscle Volumes.” European Journal of Applied Physiology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31230110/.