Uh, You Might Want To Rethink Squatting Over Public Toilets
It's common to hover over public toilet seats to avoid sitting on a (likely) less than sanitary surface. Sure, it's a bit of a leg workout, but it seems like the most logical solution for avoiding germs, other than creating a nest of toilet paper. However, there may be reason to pause the next time you encounter the squatting situation.
According to urogynecologist and pelvic floor expert Betsy Greenleaf, D.O., squatting over the toilet seat can actually interfere with pelvic floor health over time. "It's not an ideal thing to be doing," she states on the mindbodygreen podcast. Allow her to explain.
Why you might want to rethink squatting over public toilets.
First, let's review the pelvic floor and why it's important (no matter your age or gender). The term refers to "all the muscles and nerves and organs that make up our lower abdomen," Greenleaf explains, and it influences your continence (aka bladder control), sex drive, and more.
That's why it's important to strengthen the pelvic floor (see here for exercises), but you also don't want to put too much pressure on this area. "When you squat, you are activating the muscles in your pelvic floor, because you're trying not to fall over," says Greenleaf, which can cause muscle spasms and unnecessary pressure. Over time, this can lead to difficulty with having sex, pain with sitting, and more, says Greenleaf. It's especially important if you have a spasmodic pelvic floor (where the pelvic floor muscles contract involuntarily), as that will inhibit those muscles from relaxing even more.
See, when those pelvic muscles aren't relaxed, they don't allow everything from the bladder or bowels to pass. "If someone is trying to squat and have a bowel movement, they're just not going to empty all the way, because they're activating those pelvic floor muscles, which are really just not going to let things pass," Greenleaf explains.
So, what's the solution? Well, Greenleaf explains that sitting on those seats may not be as gross as we think: "If you think about it, the part of your body that's touching the public seats is just the back of your thighs," she says. "So if you're in public—say, you're at a beach resort with a bathing suit or shorts on—and you're sitting on a barstool, just as much of your skin is touching that bar stool as it is a toilet seat."
Of course, some toilet seats are visibly much grosser than bar stools, but if there are no glaring signs of grime, Greenleaf says you're probably just fine. There are also always good ol' seat covers or toilet paper to create a barrier between your skin and the surface. According to Greenleaf, it's worth taking the extra time, and your pelvic floor will thank you in the long run.
The next time you're in a public restroom, you may want to reconsider squatting over the toilet seat for the sake of your pelvic floor health. It's far better to support these muscles over time—and if you're looking for ways to strengthen the area, one great place to start is your diet.