The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Achilles Stretch in the Bathroom

In the airport, an obvious tourist arriving here in Asia proudly waved a travel pack of toilet seat covers and claimed to be ready for the germs of travel. Another tourist nearby announced that it was a problem for him that women couldn't go to the bathroom outdoors. I asked him why he thought they couldn't. He said it was because they can't stand up to go, and someone needed to invent a tray so that they could. I asked him if men sat to pass their bowels. He seemed surprised when he realized that everyone does natural things the same way. Both men and women have been sitting to "go" for thousands of years before plumbing and raised seats were invented.

All over Asia, Africa, India, the South Sea continents and islands, and even in places in Europe and the Americas, men, women, and children routinely and easily sit in full squat to eat, wait, talk on the phone, rest, relax, wash, and do other activities of life. The tourist with her seat covers may quickly find that squatting is cleaner than touching a seat. Many people who first encounter Western sit-down plumbing think it is unclean and barbaric. The squat is a functional and excellent leg strengthener and Achilles tendon stretch. People in their 80s and older who routinely squat have strong legs and healthy good knees, and can easily rise from the floor.

Would you like to try the squat? (Use your brain to be safe to try things or not, if you have damaged knees):

  • Keep both heels down (right drawing) as you bend both knees, which protects your knees.
  • One way to practice the squat if your Achilles tendons are too tight, is to hold something in front of you, like a counter or sink, and bend both knees as much as you can with both heels down.
  • While holding the support in front of you, lean back with both arms straight so that your weight stays over your whole foot and heels, which moves your weight off your knee joints and back onto your leg muscles.
  • Try to balance and sit without holding on. If you find yourself falling backward, or if your heels come up (left drawing), it is likely that your Achilles tendons are too tight for this normal activity. Put one or both hands behind you to lean on (not in the squat bathroom but just to practice).

Every time you bend around the house, use a small squat with both heels down, described in Bending Right is Fitness as a Lifestyle and Free Exercise and Free Back and Knee Pain Prevention - Healthy Bending. You will strengthen your thighs and hip, develop healthful bending that stops knee pain, strengthen your shins, and stretch your Achilles tendons each time. As this routing bending strengthens and stretches your legs, progress to lower and lower bending until you can comfortably sit in a squat. Have fun.


Drawing of Backman!™ © copyright Dr. Jolie Bookspan. Read more fun and functional stretching in the book Stretching Smarter Stretching Healthier


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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.