4 good reasons to squat every day
At this point, we’ve all heard about the dangers of too much sitting. Spending the vast majority of your time in the seated position, as most Americans do, can lead to a host of health problems and has been linked with an increased risk of premature death, even if you exercise. If you think the only alternatives to sitting are standing, walking, running or some other form of movement, you’re missing out on a position that people in other parts of the world utilize daily: squatting.
The squat is a very natural position, built into our very physiology. “You really don’t understand human bodies until you realize how important these postures are,” author and osteopath Phillip Beach told Quartz. “Here in New Zealand, it’s cold and wet and muddy. Without modern trousers, I wouldn’t want to put my backside in the cold wet mud, so [in absence of a chair] I would spend a lot of time squatting. The same thing with going to the toilet. The whole way your physiology is built is around these postures.”
If you find squatting uncomfortable, that’s not surprising. Because people do it so much less these days, the body has adapted to its absence. “Every joint in our body has synovial fluid in it. This is the oil in our body that provides nutrition to the cartilage,” explains Dr. Bahram Jam, physical therapist and founder of the Advanced Physical Therapy Education Institute (APTEI), in an interview with Quartz. “Two things are required to produce that fluid: movement and compression. So if a joint doesn’t go 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.”
One reason people stopped squatting is because of the rise of the seated toilet. Before that design became prevalent, people had to squat to use holes in the ground, outhouses and chamber pots.
And because it’s not common in Western culture, people also find squatting “strange.” “It’s considered primitive and of low social status to squat somewhere,” says Jam. “When we think of squatting we think of a peasant in India, or an African village tribesman, or an unhygienic city floor. We think we’ve evolved past that—but really we’ve devolved away from it.”
But it turns out that incorporating more squatting into your life can have some surprising health benefits:
1. Greater Flexibility
“Squatting regularly and properly can help improve range of motion and strengthen muscles throughout the lower body including the gluteals,” Dr. Jasmine Marcus, a physical therapist with McCune and Murphy Physical Therapy in Ithaca, New York, told Mother Nature Network.
2. Longer Life
A study published in “European Journal of Cardiology” showed that flexibility and range of motion were good indicators of longevity.
3. Better Bowel Movements
Although the conclusive evidence to prove it is slim, many people swear that squatting on the toilet has reduced their constipation and hemorrhoids.
4. Openness Of Mind
The malasana is a common yoga pose in which practitioners squat. Writing for the Huffington Post, yoga instructor Yuna Shin says: “I would like to think that we gain by squatting not only an openness, which we as ‘civilized’ beings unfortunately interpret as vulnerability, of our bodies, but also an openness of mind.”