I’m not sure who invented chairs. Research points to the Egyptians but the Romans could equally be responsible. Whoever the culprit was he (or she) has brought about a large list of problems. These I find myself spending an increasing amount of my time trying to fix.
Before the chair was thought of people sat very differently to the way you or I would now. It still goes on today in societies where traditional chairs just don't exist. The anatomically correct way of sitting is, in fact something many of us find impossible to do in adulthood. Ask any child under 10 to assume this position and almost all of them will be able to do it with ease. We even encourage toddlers to do this when potty training (more on this later).
So, why am I pointing the finger at the humble chair? Let’s take a look at what happens to our bodies when we sit in one. Then what happens if we don't. Just for a minute, imagine we can all still squat much like our ancestors did, and our children still do.
Natural sitting (or squatting).
- Core muscles are permanently activated to maintain balance.
- Hamstrings, butt and calf muscles are extended.
- Spine is straight and back muscles are active to maintain centre of gravity.
- Achilles tendon is flexed.
- All core muscles are permanently relaxed.
- Hamstrings are shortened.
- Butt muscles (gluteals) are inactive.
- Lower back becomes stiff and weak.
- Achilles loses flexibility.
Here’s my point.
When we sit in a chair, there are lots of muscles we simply don't need to use. The chair is doing all the hard work for us so we can literally sit back and relax. We don’t need core strength anymore. We don’t need the use of the muscles in our bum and we can start to slouch. This affects the muscles in our back and shoulders. Sitting in chairs is something we do quite a lot of.
We wake up from sleeping (where all our skeletal muscles are mostly inactive). After a small period of activity (only broken by a sit down on the loo (which I promise I will come on to)), we sit in a chair to eat our breakfast. Then we sit in a car and drive to work where many of us sit down for much of the day. When it's time to go home we get back in the car, drive home and have a well earned sit down. At best, many of us may stop off on the way to visit the gym where they have an array of machines and benches that make it possible for you to sit down some more.
The trouble with sitting down.
There’s much said in the media about the obesity epidemic and all the diseases associated with it. But there’s not much talk about the sitting down epidemic and all the problems that can cause. For instance, excessive sitting causes your core muscles to become weaker which leads to lower and middle back problems. Excessive sitting alters your upper body too. Many people sit in a desk all day with their arms extended forwards. This causes the upper body to round, muscles to become weak and posture to change.
Sitting down also means your gluteals have to work far less. This not only makes them weak but it causes the connection between them and your brain to weaken too. That means you will use your butt muscles far less for other activities. Which further compounds the problem and can lead to hip, knee and even foot problems. Chairs can even cause cancer. Yes, I know!
Sitting can cause cancer.
Let’s look at the toilet as promised. We don’t do that properly either. Think back to the way you were potty trained. In fact think back to a time when we didn't have toilets at all. The place to poo was all the way down on the floor. This required assuming a position with your bum much lower than your knees. This is pretty much the same as the aforementioned squat and this allows your colon to open fully. Without being too gross, this allows you a full and complete elimination. There are a whole batch of studies that show the incorrect pooping position can lead to bloating, straining, constipation. Then there's nasty things like hemmoroids and even colon cancer. Take a look at the video below. Don't worry - it's not yukky.
So, if you want to do your body a favour, learn to squat properly. The Accumulator™ members have full access to The Knowledge. If you're a member, you can access this video which shows you how to learn proper squatting technique. Don't worry I don’t cover the toilet part. Who wants to see that?