While you’re reading this, you’re probably sitting down. Now take a brief moment to consider how your legs are positioned. Are both feet flat on the ground? Are they elevated on a stool? Or are they crossed? If you’re sitting cross-legged, you may want to straighten yourself out.
You might have heard that sitting cross-legged increases the risk of varicose veins—those unattractive blue veins that make wearing shorts or skirts impossible. Not only are varicose veins unattractive to look at, they can cause pain, throbbing, and itchiness. But can how you sit really be the cause of varicose veins?
The good news is that sitting cross-legged will not cause varicose veins. The issue isn’t how you’re sitting, but that you’re sitting too much. Instead, you should be moving around, getting your blood flowing, and exercising regularly if you want to have vein-free legs. Furthermore, varicose veins can be hereditary, so even if you are constantly exercising, varicose veins could pop up.
Although sitting cross-legged won’t lead to varicose veins, this sitting position can lead to other problems.
Cross-legged sitting has been associated with high blood pressure, nerve damage, and even poor posture, which can lead to aches and pains. Although most of the dangers of cross-legged sitting are temporary, you’re better off sitting with both feet on the ground to avoid them entirely.
A study carried out by researchers from Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Netherlands, found that increases in blood pressure were indeed seen by crossed legs. After assessing over a hundred men and women, blood pressure was seen to increase when legs were crossed at the knee in the sitting position. However, no significant changes in blood pressure were seen when crossing the legs at the ankles.
Another study that involved the researchers from the University of Calgary Alberta, Canada also found that blood pressure increased with crossed leg, which could possibly increase the estimation of cardiovascular risk for many patients. For this reason, they recommended for all patients to have their feet flat on the ground when measuring their blood pressure.
In addition to these cardiovascular consequences, sitting with your legs crossed can also be a source of back and neck pain. It is believed that this position torques your hips, leading to the rotation of your pelvic bone. Your pelvic bone is the base of support for your spine, and putting it in a rotated position for extended periods can put unnecessary pressure on the spinal vertebrae that make up your lower back and even extend all the way up to your neck.
Although cross-legged sitting isn’t a life-threatening habit, it still affects you negatively. As mentioned, the real threat to your health is prolonged sitting. Instead of worrying about how your sitting position is affecting your health, consider the detrimental effects of sitting for prolonged periods of time. Be conscious of your sitting habits and try to limit the amount of time you’re sitting. In the long run, you will be much healthier if you minimize your sitting habit and replace it with standing or walking instead.