Is It Bad to Cross Your Legs? 4 Claims Examined

Most of us have heard that crossing your legs at the knees when you sit in a chair is bad for you. Regardless of this claim, itís estimated that almost half (45 percent) of American women and 21 percent of men still cross their legs most or nearly all of the time.

Are we seriously harming ourselves? Letís take a closer look at some of the most common accusations against crossing your legs.

 

Claim 1: It raises your blood pressure.

On the surface, this accusation is true. Several studies have found that putting one leg over the other when sitting results in a higher blood pressure reading. But this elevated blood pressure doesnít last long.

Some of the studies took follow-up blood pressure readings three minutes after participants uncrossed their legs and put their feet flat on the floor. Their blood pressure had returned to their normal levels.

This is why nurses and doctors will typically ask you to uncross your legs when youíre getting your blood pressure checked. Itís significant during a test, but has not been shown to have a lasting impact on your overall blood pressure.

In addition, this was only significant for crossing your legs at the knee. A 2007 study found it makes no difference on blood pressure readings when you cross your ankles.

Ruling: Not true in the long-term.†

 

Claim 2: It gives you varicose veins.

This accusation appears to be purely an urban myth. At least 12 large studies have looked at the risk factors for varicose veins, and crossing your legs was not found to be one of them.

Varicose veins are caused by weakened valves in your blood vessels that normally control the flow of blood. When these valves are weakened, blood canít move properly and pools in your lower legs. This creates enlarged veins called varicose veins.

Many studies have shown that the greatest risk factors for varicose veins are lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure and a family history of varicose veins. In fact, over 80 percent of people who develop varicose veins have at least one parent with them.

Ruling: Not true.†

 

Claim 3: It causes nerve damage.

Itís true that crossing your legs can make your leg or foot go numb. But this is only temporary. The numbness is caused by putting pressure on the peroneal nerve behind the knee when your legs are crossed. You might experience some pins and needles as soon as you uncross your legs. Otherwise, there are no proven long-term health risks.

A condition called peroneal nerve palsy can develop from staying in the same position for a long time. If it becomes severe, your foot may drag when you walk, which is known as ďfoot drop.Ē This condition occurs most often in people who are bedridden or wheelchair-bound with limited movement.

A South Korean study also found that holding a squatting position or sitting cross-legged on the floor for hours at a time were risk factors for peroneal nerve palsy. But this would only happen in an unusual situation. Normally, most of us will shift and move our legs fairly often because sitting too long in one position gets uncomfortable.

Itís also recommended that people at high risk for blood clots do not cross their legs for long periods of time. For them, restricting the blood flow could increase the risk of a deep vein thrombosis.

Ruling: Very unlikely. However, people who are at high risk for blood clots should†not cross their longs for long periods of time.†

 

Claim 4: It puts a strain on your joints.

This is partially true. Crossing your legs reduces the action of your abdominal muscles, which causes your back muscles to tighten slightly to make up for it. If you already have pre-existing back or hip problems, this could certainly lead to discomfort.

But if this is not an issue for you, crossing your legs is unlikely to have any negative influence on your joints. In fact, a few studies have actually found that crossing your legs could be beneficial.

A study from the University Medical Centre in Rotterdam showed that a crossed leg posture could contribute to greater stability in your pelvic joints. Another study recommended that leg crossing should be incorporated into workplace design because crossing your legs is so beneficial.

Ruling: Possibly true, especially†for people with back or hip problems.

 

Whatís behind the accusations?

Crossing legs when you sit is considered disrespectful and offensive in some cultures and religions. Perhaps this belief has influenced our general perception of leg crossing.

It also plays a role in body language. According to a 1999 survey, 59 percent of women and 65 percent of men believe that women flirt by crossing their legs. Seventy percent of men claimed that a woman looks sexy when she crosses her legs, and it adds a look of elegance.

Cultural and social beliefs aside, crossing your legs is a personal preference that appears to have little effect on your health. Whereas, sitting for long periods of time and leading a sedentary lifestyle have been linked to very serious health risks. These include obesity, metabolic diseases and an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer.

No matter what sitting posture you choose, the most important thing you can do for your health is to get out of your chair and get moving.

 

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163 comments

Kathryn I
Kathryn Iyesterday

I had heard previously regarding varicose veins. Leg-crossing is just bad for the circulation in general. Thanks for sharing.

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Melanie S

Thank for letting me know its okay uncross my legs under my desk :)

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One Heart i
One Heart i9 days ago

Thanks!!!

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Ruth S
Ruth S10 days ago

Thanks.

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Elena Poensgen
Elena P10 days ago

Thank you

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Elena Poensgen
Elena P10 days ago

Thank you

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Glennis W
Glennis W10 days ago

Very informative causes clots too Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W10 days ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W10 days ago

Very interesting article Thank you for caring and sharing

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Carl R
Carl R13 days ago

Thanks!!!

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