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Sit On The Floor For Better Health

Each month we send out an email just for our Open Enrollment members. We wanted to show you how they are working toward greater health and wellness each month. Here is our first email for members who committed to their wellness for the next year.

In this first monthly email exclusively for our Open Enrollment Members, we are going to talk about the floor. We are talking about getting down to the floor, the benefits of staying on the floor, and the importance of being able to get off the floor. This may not be what you expected, but it's an important part of human mobility. Now, get somewhere comfy (the floor?) and learn why this is practically a vital sign of your health.

As the holiday season is coming, you know you'll be on the floor getting the house holiday clean, opening up your gifts, and hanging out with the youngest of your family. This is a great time to assess and improve your ability to get on and off the floor.

Like checking vital signs at your primary care, we want to find our baseline level of health. While you are familiar with having your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature checked to assess your general health, we are going to be checking your stability, balance, and strength by using the Sit-and-Rise Test. The Sit-and-Rise Test helps determine range of motion in your hips, balance and coordination throughout movement, and overall leg and core strength. These are all required for smooth movements that keep you doing the things you love. Here's how the test goes:

  • In a standing position, cross one foot in front of the other and lower down on the floor in a cross legged position without holding onto anything.

  • From this same cross legged position, stand back up without placing your hands or knees on the floor, or using anything for support.

  • You can reach forward with your arms to help your balance.

Sit and Rise test, sit-and-rise test, getting on the floor, getting off the floor

If you are able to do this easily, then you have good range of motion in your hips, and have good strength, balance, and coordination. Nice job, but don't think you can skip over and forget about this. You want to keep that good motion long term.

If you aren't able to do this easily, then the good news is have something we know we can work on. Let's find out where you are limited, and what you can start doing to improve this every day.

One of the first limits we see with many people is that they don't have the mobility in their hips to easily move through the position required for this test. A big part of this is that they just don't get enough practice in these positions. We sit in chairs plenty, and we stand and walk often, but how much time do you actually spend on the floor?

By spending time sitting on the floor we are able to safely move our bodies in patterns and positions we may not be able to attain when upright. We can improve our hip mobility, and engage the posterior chain of our legs. This also gives us more options to move around and get comfortable in. Since we are going to be intentionally spending more time on the floor, here are options of different ways to sit. Work on getting comfortable in each of them, to get the benefit that each position offers.

  • Cross Legged

    • Criss Crossed Applesauce, like when you were a kid

    • Try with each leg in front position

  • 90/90 Sitting

    • One leg rotated out in front of you

    • One leg rotated in with foot behind you

    • Each knee should be in 90 degree position

    • Try with each leg in front position

  • Long Sitting

    • Legs together and straight out in front of you

    • Keep torso upright

  • One Leg Up

    • Long sitting position with one leg bent up

    • Bend leg foot is flat on floor

    • Try with each leg in front position

Crossed legged sitting, 90/90 sitting, 90-90 sitting, side sitting, sitting on floor, comfortable sitting

Long sitting, One leg up sitting, sitting on floor, comfortable sitting positions

If you find that you have difficulty with any of these positions, then you not only will benefit from practicing them, but you will also find that it's easier to sit on the floor after doing mobility work.

These mobility exercises help loosen up tissue that allows you to sit longer, and get off the floor easier. By working on a couple of these exercises every day, you will start feeling better in your hips, thighs, and back, and you will do even better with the Sit-and-Rise Test.

Pick two of the four exercises below to do each day. Mix and match which two you do, and find what's the most benefit for you. Each link brings you to a video of how to do them.

Now that you have a plan in place to make your floor sitting easier to get to, easier to enjoy, and easier to get out of, let's give you a few more tips for those times when you aren't sitting on the floor.

In the real world we sit on chairs. We sit on chairs to eat. We sit on chairs to study. Many of us sit on chairs to work. Sitting in chairs serves a purpose, so we don't want to tell you to no longer sit in chairs. Since it's part of our everyday life, let's make it the best we can with these tips.

  • Choose a chair that works for you. Don't fall for any specially advertised features when you can get the best assessment by parking yourself in it. What works for someone else, may not work for you. If a friend's cousin's neighbor's uncle had a great outcome with a chair, that doesn't mean it's the right chair for you. Test it out, and don't be shy about returning a chair you quickly learn you don't like.

  • Sit toward the front edge of the chair. When you sit toward the back of a chair, your rest the weight of your legs on your hamstrings, and when you lean your back on the backrest, you roll your pelvis back and sit more on your sacrum. This may feel comfortable at first, especially if you've been standing a long time, but this is a position that can easily seduce you to staying too long resulting in low back stiffness, soreness along the back of your legs, and even strain on your neck and mid back from slumping forward. Notice the main difference in the two pictures where sitting slightly forward on the right side reduces rounding of the back.

  • Sit high enough that your feet are resting comfortably on the ground. Moving your seat height up helps you in two ways. First, it opens up the compressed area in the front of your hip. Second, it allows you to accept weight into your legs, which helps unload your back and prevents you from slumping back, like when sitting too far toward the back of the chair.

Seated posture, slump sitting, upright posture, seated back pain

While these tips can be helpful for some variation in your chair position, they are most beneficial for shorter durations of sitting as they require you to be more active with your legs and trunk. If you are required to sit throughout the work day and fatigue of sitting is a concern, you will need even more variance and options, including supported sitting positions. If you're looking for more information about Optimal Sitting Posture, you can check out this guide from my colleague Pete. It's also highly recommended you consider a standing desk if work is a desk top command station.

We've almost covered all the sitting tips, but let's not neglect the car. Sitting in the car is a major problem for many people. It's again a necessary task that can be prolonged and frustrating. While we can't fully avoid this, we can support it to make it less of a stress. The video below shows you how to set yourself up with a folded towel, which will have you arriving with less stiffness and more energy so you can get moving and be active.

To wrap up our first monthly newsletter

for a year long of healthy habits, let's re-visit where we started with the Sit-and-Rise Test. We focused on this first because we have evidence to support the value of being able to get on and off the floor without using support.

A well known study that was published in 2014 found that the inability to get up and down off the floor without assistance is associated with a greater risk of death. This was a six year study with over 2,000 participants, and the better the participants did with the Sit-and-Rise Test, the less likely they were to fall in the first place, and the better their all-around health was, increasing their statistical likelihood of survival.

Getting on and off the floor doesn't just serve a function when playing with new toys around the holidays. It also is a measure of overall health. The better you are at doing this, the lower the risk of injury, irritation, and debility. This gives you a way to assess yourself on your own, and tactics to start addressing it. If you notice that this is difficult for you, then be sure to bring it up when you next come in, and we will help make sure you get better at this over time, making you even more resilient and consistent.

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