Sitting on the Floor Shown to Improve Your Posture—Experts Recommend Two Positions

  • A new trend, “floor time,” has taken over TikTok, garnering 19 million views and counting.
  • The trend suggests that time away from sitting in a chair has the potential to improve posture and even promote longevity.
  • Experts recommend individuals begin sitting on the floor for small amounts of time, ideally with their back against a wall to ensure a neutral spine.

young woman typing at her laptop sitting on the floor at home with a cup

young woman typing at her laptop sitting on the floor at home with a cup

EASY 2 SHOOT/Stocksy

A new online trend known as #floortime—which has nearly 19 million views on TikTok—suggests that sitting on the floor could improve your posture and even promote longevity.

For years, we have known that sitting for long periods can lead to stiff joints, an increased risk of certain diseases, and even a shortened life span. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that as many as four to five million people die prematurely each year due to being sedentary.

Changing up your position and choosing to sit on the floor allows you the opportunity to potentially offset some of the negative side effects of sitting in a chair. But the practice is slightly more nuanced than the internet influencers may lead you to believe.

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Benefits of Floor Time

In a climate of remote, tech-heavy work opportunities, as well as entertainment options often enjoyed from the couch, current generations are sitting more than the individuals who came before them. Sitting for extended periods of time—especially in the same position—can lead to low back pain, tighten your hip flexors, and possibly cause other problems.

Conversely, if you regularly sit on the floor, you could not only improve your posture and flexibility but also strengthen your core. Matthew Cavanaugh, DC, a chiropractor in Louisiana who specializes in treating back and neck pain, noted that floor sitting engages muscles in the core and back that are not used while sitting in a chair. Floor time may even reduce pain in your neck, shoulders, and spine over time.

“Sitting on the floor helps to prevent slouching, as your lower back is naturally pulled slightly into a supported position when you are sitting with your legs crossed,” Dr. Cavanaugh explained. “This helps to keep your core muscles engaged and prevents aches and pains that can come from sitting in an improper position.”

Additionally, sitting on the floor requires stretching of certain muscles in order to remain comfortable and stable, which could help increase your flexibility over time, Dr. Cavanaugh added. You may also notice an increase in your range of motion and less pain than before.

Even spending time lying on the floor can offer some benefits, he said. “[Like sitting on the floor], lying on the floor can help to improve posture by allowing the spine to decompress and release tension, as well as increasing flexibility in the hips, lower back, and joints.”

While there is limited scientific evidence on the benefits of floor sitting, there is research that shows a connection between longevity and how well you go from sitting on the floor to rising again—or your sitting-rising test score (SRT). Researchers found that for each one-point increase in a person’s SRT score, there was a 21% improvement in survival.

The more you sit on the floor, the easier it may become for you to rise from that position, which in turn could potentially influence your longevity.

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Finding the Right Position

If you have decided to give floor sitting a try, there are some sitting positions that are better than others.

Sitting with your legs folded underneath your body and the tops of your feet on the floor—sometimes called “seiza”—is considered one of the best positions because it helps maintain proper spinal alignment, Dr. Cavanaugh explained. Additionally, leaning back against a wall or cushion can help support your lower back while keeping the spine neutral.

“I highly recommend sitting on the floor with your back against a wall to ensure that you are not hunching over,” John Gallucci, Jr, MS, ATC, PT, DPT, a doctor of physical therapy, CEO of JAG-ONE Physical Therapy, and the medical coordinator for the Major League Soccer told Health.

“Using the wall as a support, lean your spine against the wall and sit crisscrossed. The benefits of crisscrossed sitting include an increase of range of motion and blood flow, tension release, and it can also improve bowel movement.”

Just make sure you start out slow, suggested Kevin Lees, DC, director of chiropractic operations for The Joint Corp. Try sitting for a minute or two at first. As you feel more comfortable, you can build your tolerance and stamina to sit as much as 20 to 30 minutes, he said. “While sitting down doesn’t seem like a hard activity, you may be surprised to find that you are sore after doing so. Start small, in a safe place to practice getting up and down on your own.”

It’s also important to keep in mind that sitting on the floor is different from sitting in a chair, and both have their own advantages and disadvantages. Sitting on the floor can be beneficial for posture, flexibility, and muscular strengthening, while chairs typically provide more back support and less strain on the neck and spine, Dr. Cavanaugh added.

What to Watch Out For

Sitting on the floor incorrectly can lead to back and neck pain, as well as tightness in the shoulders and hips. So while you may be tempted to just plop down next to your office chair, there are a few things to consider first.

One common mistake is sitting in a twisted position or with one leg tucked underneath the other, which can put a strain on the lower back and cause awkward postures, Dr. Cavanaugh explained. Another mistake is sitting with a rounded spine, which can result in tension in the neck and shoulders as well as low back pain.

Even preferred positions, like seiza, may not be helpful for certain people, Dr. Gallucci said. “For many, this can reduce blood flow and add tension to the body and joints. Additionally, the pressure of all your weight on your legs can also cause spider veins.” To avoid this added pressure, he recommends sitting in a crisscross position with your back against a wall.

Another common mistake is leaning back on your palms, which can cause pain or pressure in your wrists and a loss of muscle activity in your lower back, noted Dr. Lees. Meanwhile, reclining on your side, and propping yourself up with your elbow can cause shoulder pressure and pain, and may aggravate back problems after a while.

“[When sitting on the floor], make sure you can get up and down comfortably,” he added. “If you question whether you will be able to safely sit or get up, it may be a goal for a later day. Stay near something sturdy that can help you in the event you lose balance or strength while sitting down or getting up.”

The type of surface you sit on also can make a difference when floor sitting. Because hardwood floors provide less cushioning than carpets and rugs, it’s important to use a cushion or yoga block for added support and comfort, Dr. Cavanaugh said.

Overall, if you work long hours sitting down, floor sitting could be a great alternative, emphasized Dr. Gallucci. “You can also sit on the floor while you play with your pet, read a book, or scroll on your phone.”

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