Sunday, May 5, 2013

Sit if you must. Then Squat. Stand. Swing. Sommersault. Stretch. Squat again.

We are selling our couches.

We are selling our chairs.

Well, okay, we are keeping a few folding chairs in the closet, for when guests visit who would prefer to "be seated."  We are also keeping one rocking armchair for grandma visits.

But we are selling the rest!  We are going to be an on-foot- or on-floor family, at least for a while as an experiment.  Here is why.  Everyone knows that in our culture we sit WAY too much.  "Sitting is the new smoking."  We get up in the morning and sit down for breakfast.  Then we go sit in our cars for our commutes or errands.  Then we sit at our office desks, or school desks, or we sit in waiting rooms or conference rooms. (Here is a short TED talk on holding "walking meetings.")  We sit in the car back home, then sit at our computers for awhile, and sit at the dinner table.  Maybe we sit on the couches and chat with our families, or read story books, or watch a movie.  We sit on the toilet.  Then we sit at our computers some more.  Then we go to bed.

We figure that we end up sitting in so many places, the one place we can ensure not too much sitting happens is home: the only place we are in charge.

Sitting isn't bad... in great moderation.  But holding any one position for too long causes problems for our bodies.  It limits our strength, flexibility, and causes excessive loading on certain muscles and joints, and insufficient loading on others.  These in term lead to more serious problems like back pain or pelvic floor disorder (to name a few I have personally suffered). Sitting too much can also complicate the natural birth process.  Then of course there are the unburned calories... We try to make up for all of our sitting with daily exercise, but there is NO SUBSTITUTE for constant, natural movement throughout the day.  (Here is a great post about why, in the long run, an hour of daily exercise is a short-term fix for a sedentary lifestyle, and may be harmful in the end...particularly if that exercise is on a treadmill.)

Whatever your thoughts on the exercise culture, no one can deny that 1) we sit too much and 2) constant movement is ideal.

So we are selling our couches.  We are sawing the legs off our dining room table, and sitting Japanese-style on pillows at meals.  (Still working out how we are going to manage this with little kids, but it's not stopping us.  We'll find a solution).


Okay, so let's envision the Nelson family future.  I get home from work and want to cuddle up with the little guy and read a story before dinner.  Wait... no couch!  We hit the floor, where there are some comfy rugs and cushions... that force us into different positions than we could find in the car, or at office meetings, or church.  We sit cross-legged.  But that isn't comfortable very long, so we change to lying on our tummies for awhile.  Then we roll over on our backs and hold the book above us.  Then maybe we kneel awhile.  Now we've read three story books, and we've been engaging our muscles in the meantime... maybe we've even been facilitating different cerebral responses to the ideas in the stories by changing positions as we read.

It is not good to be in any position too long.  Anthropology professor Gordon Hewes created this chart in 1955 to illustrate all of the "resting positions" he had encountered in his study of traditional cultures.

See how many options there are?!  How many of these do we use on a weekly basis?  On a daily basis?  Here is the post where I found the above chart, about how changing position often is a great idea. (Another good post on chairs and our society).

Standing too much isn't good either.  When I teach my classes, I never sit, and I rarely stand.  I pace around the room, or when I need to stay in one spot, I sway side to side (I just noticed that I do this --- might be the mama effect).  My husband just created this standing work station for himself at home: a fantastic idea for any of us at home or at work.

He takes little breaks from standing by doing chores here or there around the house, or by sitting at a stool for small intervals.  (I haven't seen him sitting at his computer once in the last week!  And he's on the computer a fair amount.)

By the way, for his standing work station he repurposed some of the wood from this jungle gym he built for Peter.

Read this for inspiration to get your kids hanging, swinging, and climbing!

If you have been clicking on the links, you may have noticed that I read a lot of Katy Bowman's blog.  If you start reading it, you won't stop either.  My next post will explain why I am now an alignment junkie, and it's going to get personal. 

One final idea: sitting definitely is used as a way to keep people orderly and attentive during class and during meetings.  Think how many hours our kids sit at school!  Maybe we, as parents, can get creative about ways to keep an orderly classroom while not requiring that kids sit in chairs for hours on end.  Maybe in our Sunday School classes we can make it acceptable to sit on the floor, or stand in the back.

Let's get off our chairs and get moving!

Anyone want to buy my couches?


  1. Interesting! You are going to live like a Korean. In Korea on my mission we never sat on a couch or a chair. And I got very used to it. When I used to sit on chairs all day (at school or work) I found myself sitting cross-legged a lot because my legs would start to ache. The other bonus to not having couches and chairs--you'll have tons of space! Koreans live in very small homes, but they have enough space because they have no furniture. They don't have beds either--just yos (thick pad-like blankets) that they roll out on the floor every night. They swear it's better for your back than a bed--and it probably is. I love the jungle gym! Cool that you are trying something out of the norm for our culture!

  2. Thanks for the motivation, Meredith. You're a doer! I've been making changes here and there too (more diverse positioning, standing more when I teach violin, etc.) but we still have too much furniture! Maybe we can lose the couches when we move one day.

    Love the low dinner table. Love the Korean sleeping mats, too, Katie! I feel best when I sleep lying flat on my back with no pillow, trying to be aligned just right. Think of the great extra space if we got rid of beds!

  3. So wonderful, Meredith!! I am jealous. I would love to be that adventurous. Maybe I'll make a pact not to couch sit, for at least the next nine months...

  4. After we chatted about this, Merzi, I realized that I (and actually all the people in my house) don't really use our chairs as chairs. We almost always have our legs up. We're just little people more comfortable that way. Is that okay? We do recline sometimes, though. How about stools? Are they better because you're not reclining back?

    1. That's great! We don't use ours much either, which is why we are getting rid of them. Chairs/sofas just aren't part of our family culture anymore! We will of course do our best to accommodate guests.

      Definitely: Sitting in varied positions on couches or chairs is just like sitting in varied positions on the floor. The advantage to floor sitting is that we work important muscles by going down to the floor and getting up off of it. It takes a lot less effort to get in and out of a chair.

      Stools beat chairs in that you are supporting more of your own structure = working muscles and keeping them strong. Of course too much stool sitting isn't ideal either, as it will still have long-term effects on metabolic function, and it limits possible positions.

      Reclining is fine too. Long-term lying down should take alignment into consideration. Goal should be a neutral pelvis (ASIS bones on a plane with pubic bone), whether standing, lying, or sitting.

  5. That is so daring. When I was living with a Mexican family for a couple days in a small village, I asked our host what traditions relating to pregnancy and birth they have in their native tribe. She said that a pregnant women was not supposed to sit in a chair for the duration of her pregnancy, but must squat instead. It makes sense. I read that especially sitting in reclining chairs while pregnant can increase the risk that the baby will be born breech.

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  7. Did you implement this?? I'm researching floor tables currently, which is how I came across this post. We're wanting to do the same in our home (after stumbling upon Katy Bowman's site!), but I'm nervous about how it will work out with a 9 month old... I'd love to read an update!