If I, as a physiotherapist, could eliminate one thing from the modern world… it would be a hard choice between the pickles on burgers and sitting. Just kidding, it would be sitting. Or, more specifically, a lack of movement and activity in general. Over the course of our lifetime we go from exploring the world and how we can interact with it as children… to sitting, almost literally, all day as adults. We sit at the breakfast table, in the car on the drive to work/school, on the drive home. We then sit down to eat dinner, watch some tv, and go to sleep – ready to do it all over again! This is pretty close to the polar opposite of the kind of life we would have led a century or two ago.
A great quote that I love thinking about is this: “Human beings are scary. Our preferred method of hunting was persistence hunting, where we chased animals until their body simply gave up and died.” Does that sound like your typical 9-5? Probably not. So today let’s talk about one of the most fundamental movement patterns that you probably can’t do anymore – the squat!
Squats are great because the use a lot of muscles and multiple joints – you get a lot of bang for your buck by squatting, rather than doing 5 different exercises for 5 different muscles. Squats will build strength in your legs, hips, back and ‘core’. They will help you regain ranges of motion that have been lost due to years (if not decades!) of sitting. It will help improve your ability to balance and control your body through space.
So how do we squat? Take a shoulder width stance with your feet, or just slightly outside of your hips when you look down. You then push your hips back slightly, before sitting down towards the floor. Keep your knees in line with your feet (don’t let them cave in), and try to keep your chest upright if you can. You may find it helpful to squat to something when starting out – a milk crate or low chair for example. If you prefer to see a squat in action, see our video here - You can progress squats by going lower or adding weight (a barbell is the easiest method, but a backpack with books in it or anything will work really). Start out with doing them a 2-3x a week, for 3×10 reps. As you get better at the movement you can make them harder. Now go get squatting!
Chris Mooney, Physiotherapist