Sitting for long periods is bad for your health, which increases the risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
But you don’t have to be moving all day to make up for that damage – new research suggests that if we just change how we “ sit, ” we may be healthier.
The idea comes from a recent study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which examined the habits of the Hadza tribe in Tanzania, East Africa.
Squats can also improve leg strength and flexibility, which is also linked to longevity
“The Hadzas spend the same nine to 10 hours a day resting as we do, but they don’t have the same disease rate,” says the study’s lead author, Professor David Raichlen, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Southern California.
“We think this is because they don’t sit when they rest – they squat or kneel instead.” And this seems to be the key to their improved health. The question is why?
When we sit, the muscles in the legs and buttocks switch off. However, squatting – squatting with your feet flat on the floor – keeps muscles working. “To do this,” says Professor Raichlen, “fuel is needed and the muscles pull fats called triglycerides from the bloodstream.
“High levels of triglycerides have been linked to heart disease, so using them to squat lowers their levels and potentially the risk of this disease.”
A 2015 study, presented at the American College of Sports Medicine conference in San Diego, found that it simply breaks up every half hour with squats and calf raises (when you stand on a flat surface and lift your heels to your bending calf muscles until tiptoe, then slowly lowering and repeating) improved blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
Sitting for long periods is bad for your health, which increases the risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes [File photo]
Squats can also improve leg strength and flexibility, which is also linked to longevity.
A trial, published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in 2014, found that people aged 51 to 80 who were able to get up from squat-style positions without their hands were less likely to die within six years than those who couldn’t pull themselves up.
The researchers suggest that the results reflect that the movement stimulates strength and flexibility that contribute to better health.
People who usually squat while at rest tend to use this position when going to the bathroom – and this has benefits, too.
“People are meant [use the loo] in a squatting position, “explains Dr. Megan Rossi, a dietitian at King’s College London, with expertise in gut health.
“It straightens the bottom of the gut and anus, allowing smooth evacuation without straining.”
“The right position for a squat at rest will make you squat, bent knees, bottom almost on the floor, with flat heels,” explains Tim Allardyce, a physiotherapist at Surrey Physio in Mitcham.
“I suspect 95 percent of adults can’t get into that position or stay comfortable in it.”
But that does not mean it is impossible. “The calves stretch by standing on the edge of a step and dropping your heel down; or lying on your back and putting a knee in your chest and holding it there for a few seconds will improve the flexibility in the muscles you need to crouch, ”he says.
After doing these exercises every day for a few weeks, try holding a resting squat for ten to twenty seconds, extending the time each week until you can hold it for three to five minutes.
“At first, only go as far as you feel comfortable. By exercising, you increase your flexibility to get into a squat position and increase your strength to maintain it. If you have hip or knee problems, talk to your physical therapist before exercising. ‘
Although British loos are not set to crack, Dr. Rossi that it is still possible to create the position.
“Make sure your knees are slightly higher than your hips,” she says. Place a shoebox or footstep under your feet. Then lean forward and place your elbows on your knees. ‘
Bad, good, best: how to make the most of food choices
This week: cod
Made with a butter, cream and cheese sauce, this battered cod beats the title of unhealthy way to serve fish. A typical serving provides about 570 calories and almost all of your daily saturated fat – compared to a quarter of battered cod – which is bad for heart health.
Cod morning is pictured above. Made with a butter, cream and cheese sauce, this battered cod beats the title of unhealthy way to serve fish
Cod with parmesan crust is shown above
GOOD: Cod with parmesan crust.
Mix grated Parmesan cheese with bell pepper and chopped parsley.
Cover the fish with the mixture and bake in the oven.
Two tablespoons of Parmesan cheese per serving provides 200 mg (a quarter of your daily requirement) of calcium for healthy bones.
Baked cod with lemon and herbs is shown above
It also adds 3.8 g of saturated fat.
BEST: Baked cod with lemon and herbs.
A 150g serving of cod cooked with lemon, dill and parsley provides less than 120 calories and 26g of protein – more than half of the daily recommendation.
It provides all your daily vitamin B12 for a healthy nervous system and iodine for the thyroid gland.