The full squat posture is a foundation of human movement. As young children, it is the position we used when playing or when reaching for something on the ground. Squatting often replaces sitting in other cultures; it is used as a position of rest, for performing work or even eating meals.
But in our Western society, this position has been replaced by the use of chairs – much to the detriment of our bodies. Becoming inflexible and stiff is not a normal part of aging. For most of us, it is simply a case of use it or lose it. It’s not always easy to “use it” with all the conveniences of the modern world. We must make a concerted effort to move our bodies in and out of this foundational posture to prevent losing the ability to squat. Why? Read on …
How does this posture benefit your health? If you already have the ability to come into a full squat and do not have any injuries or medical conditions where this position would be contraindicated, maintaining your ability to squat is one of the best things you can do for your longevity.
1. Lower body joint mobility is maintained or improved. Being able to keep your heels down in a full squat is an indicator of good ankle mobility, which can prevent many injuries. With your knees and hips also aligned and fully flexed, this position helps maintain joint health.
2. Better posture overall and decreased pain. Having a flexible spine and good hip motion means that your movement patterns will be more aligned and that equates to improved efficiency and less pain.
3. Increased longevity and quality of life. The ability to sit and rise from the floor was studied as a predictor of mortality by researchers in Brazil (1). The researchers assigned point values to how much or little assistance was required for men and women aged 51 – 80 to move from standing to sitting on the floor and then rise again to standing. They concluded that a low score was associated with a 2-5 times higher death rate over 6 years. Yikes!
So if you currently cannot move into a full squat, the good news is that you can work to change it. You are never too old or inflexible to improve your strength or mobility! Be patient with your body – improving flexibility takes time and mindfulness. Never force a posture and always stop if you feel pain!
Use props and upper body support to ease into this position – honor your current range of motion. At home, hold on to a sink and keep your knees back over your ankles as you support yourself with your arms as you lower down only as far as you can go comfortably. If you are unable to keep your heels down, place a rolled up towel under them so you can ease into a stretch while allowing your legs to relax. Over time you will notice improvement – patience and persistence are essential.
Please consult with a healthcare or movement professional before attempting this posture if you have any injuries or medical conditions. If you do have limited mobility and have any questions about your specific needs, please give me a call or comment below.
Reference: 1. Barreto de Brito LB, et al. Ability to sit and rise from the floor as a predictor of all-cause mortality. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology 2012.