Don't Just Sit There!
How bathroom posture affects your health.
Besides tipping over, there's little danger in squatting over a modern sit toilet. Both American Standard and Kohler say that floor-mounted toilets are designed to hold at least 1,000 pounds. (Still, neither company recommends perching.) The American Society for Engineers requires that wall-mounted toilets hold 500 pounds. But squatting on your toilet seat is not for everybody. Even when I was holding onto a towel rack, the situation felt precarious. A bedpan or a plastic container would have been easier, but I didn't have the former and the latter seemed gross. So I forged ahead, pushing through the week—or, as it turned out, not pushing: Bowel movements just seem to happen in a squat. My 10-minute routine dropped to a minute, two at the most, and within a few days my knees stopped complaining.
Although the week is now over, I'll probably squat again. At the very least, I gained an hour over seven days. It seems doubtful, though, that squatting, even if it helps hemorrhoids, will become the next back-to-nature craze—the new barefoot running shoe or caveman diet. Sit toilets, in the short term at least, are more comfortable than the squat toilets you might find in Europe. In fact, since Jimmy Carter's bout of hemorrhoids sit toilets have actually grown in height, pushing the anorectal angle in the wrong direction. Standard models, 14 inches from floor to rim, now compete with "comfort height" toilets that tower more than 17 inches of the floor. Americans, now fatter than ever, are having trouble standing up from a sit, never mind a squat.
Correction, Aug. 27, 2010: This article originally misspelled the first name of Jonathan Isbit. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Correction, Sept. 13, 2010: The original sentence described the $688 toilet as being Japanese. (Return to the corrected sentence.)
Daniel Lametti is a Montreal-based writer and neuroscientist.
Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty.