People in the West rarely squat. The only chances are when they attend a yoga or CrossFit class, where for most, the position is one of deep discomfort. The way we sit has evolved into something quite distant from “primeval” squatting; the chair has become ubiquitous. This would not be such a problem if we didn’t sit for such long periods. Nowadays, with more people engaged in white collar jobs, they are made to sit 8 to 10 hours per day. The only exceptions are when they get up to walk to meetings, take their break time, or go to lunch. This has resulted in the body being unable to resume its normal muscular and skeletal formation, causing weaker lower backs and leading to chronic problems.
So why is sitting so bad for you? When you sit, the curvature in the lumbar section of the spine turns unnatural, and the muscles have to adjust to this state. Because it’s unnatural, the muscles tense up and don’t release even when you stand, which results in sore backs. The situation worsens based on how long you persist in this position. Adding to this is the pressure from the weight of your upper body on the spine, causing pressure on the discs.
Sitting for several hours results in lower metabolic activity, increased insulin resistance, and weight gain. So, what do can you do?
Squatting, unlike sitting, offers a natural curvature for the spine. This has been the traditional form of sitting in many Asian cultures. And it’s a natural way for resting. Your body works on the principle that if you don’t use it in certain ways, it adapts toward that, i.e., if you don’t bend the hips fully at least once in a while, it’ll get progressively difficult to do so as time goes by.
Your joints carry synovial fluid that gives nutrition to the cartilage to function properly. When you do not stretch and compress the joints enough, the body stops producing the fluid because you don’t make use of that function. This has wider implications for your overall health, especially mobility, and gets worse as you age.
Benefits of squatting
Creating whole body tension
Despite being a very simple movement, squatting involves the whole body. Your arches and calves are stretched. Hamstrings and quads work toward keeping your balance. Hips are under tension while the anterior core and spinal erectors all join forces to keep the upper body straight. Your shoulders are pulled back, and the muscles of the neck are held in an unforced manner. When the entire musculoskeletal system is engaged, it’ll gradually return back to a natural formation ensuring you walk, sit, and sleep better.
Hip and glute strengthening
When your hip muscles are weak from holding static positions throughout the day, it leads to unnatural movements while exerting force, such as going down the stairs. The legs can pull inward, putting the knee in an awkward position, which could lead to injuries. When you squat, the hips are pushed in the opposite direction, ensuring that the fault is corrected, and the muscles that are needed for moving correctly are strengthened. Doing squats on a regular basis helps with developing the glute muscles as well, leading to stronger backs. You can lift and run more easily now.
As your body goes into a deep squat, your ankles undergo their full range of motion. When your ankles are not fully engaged and stay that way for a long time, this leads to stiffness in the joints and calf muscles turning inflexible, which in turn, is linked to bad posture, patellar tendon injury, overpronation, and problems while running. With an increase in ankle mobility, you will stand more upright and be able to undertake weight exercises that improve overall body strength.
Besides these benefits, squatting offers significant back pain relief, a decrease in the risk of arthritis, and improvements in digestive health. So spend some time every day doing deep squats, and you won’t need to wait long to feel the improvements in your body.