In much of the developed world, resting is just another word for sitting. We find ourselves sitting in cars, buses, at desks or during lunch. Then we come home to sit on the sofa and watch TV, or browse through social media channels. It’s 2018, and we are sitting more than ever before.
For most of us, although we may walk throughout the day during work breaks or to the shops, in reality we spend the majority of our time in the seated position. This even includes going to the toilet! As a result, the amount of sitting we now do has become a separate problem to the lack of exercise we get.
For example, we are beginning to fail at squatting. Why is that an issue? Because it has bio-mechanical and physiological implications, and leads to another problem — posture! We’re so consumed by mobile phones, iClouds, computers and work, that we don’t realise the absence of squatting leaves us deprived of the grounding force that this posture has provided since our ancestors first got off the floor.
Let’s be clear here — squatting isn’t just an artefact of our evolutionary history. There are many countries where squatting is still a part of daily life, whether it’s to cook, pray, eat, use a toilet or give birth. If you watch these populations, their squatting is natural and effortless, and resembles what you and I would have been able to do as children. Travelling through Asia with in-ground toilets taught me how to squat low and balance, which is the norm for many people across the globe. Children from a young age learn to walk, but they also learn to stand from the seated position through the squat movement.
Many people think that it’s the Western world that no longer squats, but it’s actually the middle to upper class world-over. However, Western countries, in general, have abandoned the squat and good posture. The majority of us may find the squat position uncomfortable, difficult or even painful. We may use the squat in the gym, at Crossfit or in yoga, but not in our everyday home or work lives. Some people even see it as undignified! Mostly it’s not because we can’t get into a deep squat comfortably, it’s just that we have forgotten how … and therefore, our bodies have changed over time, making this manoeuvre hard.
Why is squatting so good for us?
And why have so many of us forgotten how to and therefore stopped? It’s pretty simple — when you don’t do it, you lose it — unfortunately, to our detriment.
“Every joint in our body has synovial fluid in it. This is the oil in our body that provides nutrition to the cartilage. Two things are required to produce that fluid: movement and compression. So if a joint doesn’t move through its full range — if the hips and knees never go past 90 degrees — the body says ‘I’m not being used’ and starts to degenerate and stops the production of synovial fluid”, states Dr Bahram Jam, physical therapist. This can have implications for our wider health, as studies have shown that this can decrease our life expectancy by up to three years.
Of course, modern toilet designs have a lot to answer for, especially in Western parts of the world. Originally, the toilet was a hole in the floor, a bucket or an Outhouse, all of which required us to sit in the full squat position. Studies have shown that the greater hip flexion in this position correlates with less strain and better elimination when going to the toilet. This makes sense given the way our intestinal tracts are designed, as squatting produces a straighter and more efficient ‘exit-route’, which has implications in helping to prevent constipation and haemorrhoids. The University of Newcastle designed a postal health survey which was completed by 14,761 young women (aged 18-23 years), 14,070 middle-aged women (45-50 years) and 12,893 older women (70-75 years). The prevalence of constipation was surprisingly high — 14.1% in young women, 26.6% in middle-aged women, and 27% in the older women.
Consequently, the realisation that squatting leads to better bowel movements has fuelled the design of attachments for our flushable toilets that are raised to convert them into squat-like toilets. These allow the user to sit in a more flexed position that mimics the squat. The ‘Squatty Potty’ and the ’Lillipad’ are current designs that you can buy for personal use to aid in the proper function of your bowels. There is a rather comical but insightful video that ‘Squatty Potty’ have released on Youtube for viewers to see. Click on the following link and you can watch it for yourself: https://youtu.be/YbYWhdLO43Q
Unfortunately, we can’t all poop rainbow-coloured ice cream as the ad says, but we most certainly can improve our health and bodily functions for our benefit and to increase our longevity. As humans we are creatures of habit and, for too long now, we have become habitualised to not squatting. Therefore, get up out of your seated positions and learn to squat. Do your research. See a personal trainer. Go to a physio if required. Squat in the gym or try and squat down for your phone that you have dropped on the floor instead of bending over. Find moments in everyday to rebuild squatting into your life and watch your general health and hip flexion improve!
by Callum Montgomery
Source: Alanna Ketler, Collective Evolution.