Updated: Oct 12
The ability to sit on the floor comfortably – or even get up and down off the floor easily is something that many people find a challenge.
And yet, this should be one of the easiest, and most natural things to be able to do. It might even define the ageing process as being a measurement of our natural flexibility and mobility.
So why is it that we lose this natural range of movement, and how can we go about fixing it?
1. Mobility of the spine and in particular the relationship between the spine and the pelvis is key here. We have a natural curve to the spinal column to make it a springy, responsive mechanism to movement and force. These curves develop from a baby, and you can see that a baby not being able to sit onto the floor when they are young is due to the lack of curve and muscle mass to support the spine. When we get older, the lack of ability tends to be around a “stiffening” of the spine alongside a loss of muscle mass to support the core.
2. Then there is the mechanical action of how the leg bones and muscles interact with the pelvis to “lift” the body up, or lower with control down to the floor. This is reliant on the strength of the leg muscles, the joint strength and mobility and the ability of the core muscles to fire and help stabilise the upper body or trunk to facilitate moving such a heavy force.
3. The core strength is significant. Not only in helping to maintain our spinal position, but also to act as the “powerhouse” to brace the spine and pelvis connection. It also helps to adjust the internal pressure so that we do not increase heart pressure when we move – so if you feel dizzy or lightheaded when you get up or down off the floor, please take note.
4. Finally, although not always the case as I see as many lean people have this issue, carrying extra stored white fat in the abdominal area just makes it more difficult for the muscles to fire correctly, and move the body as the fat just gets in the way.
Ways to address this.
1. Try to maintain mobility of the spine with daily movement throughout the range. This can be done with both movement of the joints and stretching of the tighter muscles. Start with small range of movement through the joints to help the synovial fluid nourish and brace the joint. Then use more complex body movements that reach diagonally across the body to allow more natural freedom of movement. If the door jam is stiff we oil it and look after it – apply the same care and maintenance to your body. Ignoring the issue or avoiding movement will not improve matters. Neither will sitting still for hours at a desk – get up and move, think about lifting your arms, doing some side bends and knee lifts every hour and try to walk for at least 10 minutes during your lunch break.
2. Strengthening the body with exercises to support the shoulder girdle can be of great value. This can be done at home with bands or dumbbells or go to the gym for a wider option of resistance machines or free weights that will be of value. Think about strengthening the upper back to try and maintain the upper body curves that help the rib cage sit up and reduces the strain placed on the abdominal area and pelvic floor.
3. Leg exercises are essential and walking alone will not be sufficient. You need to work the legs in a 3-dimensional range – walking, although great, propels the body forward in a liner fashion, but we need to train the muscles through the sides too. This will improve the hip stability and knee power. Think about lateral movements - such as side leg lying, where gravity and body weight act as forces, as well as more complex exercises such as lunges once you have gained some stability in the knee joint.
4. Core exercises are fundamental to our body moving with ease. Use a range of exercises to target the body in different positions and think about loading the spine in its natural curve to begin with – that is to say avoid sit-ups to begin with and concentrate more on single leg stretch, dead bug or modified plank.
5. Stretch the tight areas with gentle moving stretches that gradually increase your range of movement before you go into a held position. Try to keep breathing through this, not only to help with any blood pressure issues, but to keep the intercostal muscles pliable and ribs responsive and mobile.
6. Losing deep abdominal fat has many health benefits, but in this instance it is almost like having an additional rucksack inside your body – making it even more challenging to move. Start with small changes and move towards a more Mediterranean based diet to see some significant results.
The body has a great capacity to change – no matter your age – which is heartening as it means that you do not have to accept what your body is doing now, but feel confident that you can work to improve your mobility and get up and down off the floor with ease.
Please feel free to download the Pilates Exercise sheet to do at home. Think about spending 6-10minutes warming up and moving your joints before doing the exercise – contact me for specific advice or join in some of the online sessions for more advice and range of exercises.