Sitting On The Floor Can Help You Live To 100, Says A Longevity Expert
Growing up, I used to do my homework on the floor. I played games on the floor, I gabbed to my friends on the floor, and sometimes I ate my meals on the floor. As I reflect now, I probably gravitated toward the ground because it, well, grounded me (I am a proud Earth sign, after all).
I'm likely not alone in my affinity for the floor, but as we get older, many of us lose this sense of childlike curiosity about the ground—especially as our joints become stiffer with age. Still, various cultures today emphasize eating and gathering on the floor—and according to longevity expert and Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner, those communities often live past 100. Coincidence? He thinks not.
The longevity perks of sitting on the floor
Buettner starts by validating what we've been talking about on mindbodygreen for years: "One of the biggest killers of older people is falls," he says on the mindbodygreen podcast. Let us remind you that if you're over 65, there's a one in four chance that you'll fall1, and if you do, studies show your chances of falling again double. If you fall and break your hip2, there is a 30 to 40% chance3 that you will die within a year (not necessarily from the fall itself, but perhaps from other complications related to the accident).
See, having low muscle mass has previously been associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline4, insulin resistance5, and high inflammatory markers6. "The data are pretty unambiguous about the longevity and health benefits of having adequate muscle mass," longevity-focused doctor Peter Attia, M.D., asserts during his mbg podcast episode.
"When you're sitting on the floor, you're [likely] getting up and down off the floor 30 times a day," he shares, which inherently trains your balance and lower-body strength. "Lo and behold, in Okinawa, [they have] far fewer falls," Buettner continues.
That doesn't mean you must toss every single piece of furniture in your home. "In the Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica, they're sitting on furniture, but they're also in their gardens," he adds. "When they're in their gardens, they're on their knees, they're bending over, [they're using] the same sort of muscles that we never use when we're sitting in our offices, watching TV, and so on."
Essentially, he wants you to incorporate movements into your daily life that intrinsically develop your lower-body strength; so even if you don't commit to an everyday strength training session in the gym, you still work those necessary muscle groups.
Is sitting on the floor the silver bullet for longevity? Of course not. You can't eat highly processed foods, ignore your mental health, and skip out on sleep and think sitting on the floor will magically help you live to 100. But according to Buettner, it is one of those "counterintuitive" practices that helps people in the Blue Zones live much longer, healthier lives. And as Buettner declares, these inherent behaviors "add up to a much bigger piece of the longevity pie than we think."
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and more. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.