Crossing your legs is a very common pose people adopt when sitting down; many of us do it automatically. Whether it is at work, at home, or on the bus, chances are that at some point today you sat down and crossed your legs. But is crossing your legs actually bad for you? It depends on a lot of factors, the main ones being how long and how often you actually do it. This is what the research has found.
The list of suggested consequences of spending too much time with one knee crossed over the other includes raised blood pressure, varicose veins, and nerve damage, but each of these deserves close examination.Dr. Fielder says that one of the problems with prolonged leg crossing is that it causes unequal weight distribution.
“When you have your legs crossed you put more pressure on one of your hips, pelvis and your lower spine and if you have hip or spine issues it might result in back and hip pain,” she explains.
Maintaining a particular posture for hours can lead to a condition called peroneal nerve paralysis or palsy. This can also happen if you sit in the same position for prolonged periods of time. It turns out that the position that is most likely to cause the peroneal nerve palsy is the cross-legged position.
One of the reasons for this is that when you put one knee over the other, it sends blood from the legs up to the chest, resulting in a larger quantity of blood being pumped out of the heart, which in turn increases your blood pressure.
An alternative explanation is that blood pressure rises because the isometric exercise of the leg muscles (exercise without the joints moving) increases the resistance to the blood passing through the vessels. This might explain why crossing legs at the ankles doesn’t have the same effect.
It can cause nerve damage
As we know, the sciatic nerve is the largest in the human body and stretches from the lower back right down to our feet. One branch of the sciatic nerve is the peroneal nerve. Any pressure on this such as leg crossing can cause numbness and tingling and over time may actually damage the nerve. This damage can result in long-term numbness and foot drop, according to the Mayo Clinic.
How should you sit instead? This video from BuzzFeed has quite a few tips that’ll come in handy.