What are the negative effects of crossing your legs while sitting?

Two men who have crossed their legs reading the newspaper and checking their mobile phone

Experts warn that crossing legs while sitting may have negative health effects.

Are you comfortable in your seat? Pause for a moment and without changing, pay attention to your posture. What position are your feet in? Have you crossed your legs? Have you placed your right foot on your left foot or vice versa? About 62 percent of people put their right foot on their left foot, 26 percent do the opposite, and 12 percent have no preference.

There are usually two ways to sit on a chair and cross your legs, one from the knee area and the other from the ankle area. But while sitting with crossed legs may be comfortable, is this sitting position unfavorable for your health and body condition?

Adam Taylor, professor and director of clinical anatomy education at Lancaster University, writes on The Conversation website that research shows that crossing your legs can increase the unevenness between your thighs and cause one side of the hip to rise. In addition, this sitting position changes the speed of blood flow in blood vessels in the lower limbs and can increase the risk of blood clotting.

Most studies show that crossing knees is worse than crossing ankles. In fact, this sitting style can increase blood pressure due to accumulation of blood in the veins and the heart’s increased effort to fight this resistance (which is why you should put your feet flat on the ground when measuring blood pressure). This position can also increase the risk of vascular damage.

The more you sit in a cross-legged manner, the more likely you are to experience long-term changes in muscle length and pelvic bone alignment. Due to the way the body’s skeleton is connected, placing legs on top of each other can also cause misalignment between the spine and shoulders. In this case, the neck may also deviate from alignment with the spine, as the spine tries to keep your center of gravity over the pelvis.

The neck can also be affected due to weakness on one side of the body compared to the other. Imbalance can also be observed in the muscles of the hips and lower back due to inappropriate posture and pressure from sitting. Hip alignment can also be compromised due to prolonged stretching of the gluteal muscles and their weakening.

Sitting for long periods with legs crossed can increase the risk of scoliosis and other abnormalities. This condition can also cause greater trochanteric pain syndrome. Greater trochanteric pain syndrome is a common and painful condition that affects the outer part of the buttocks and thigh.

Studies also show that crossing legs while sitting can expose the peroneal nerve (fibular nerve) of the leg to compression and injury. This condition usually shows weakness when attempting to raise the little toe side of the foot and also shows the drop of the foot, in which the entire foot is suspended. Although in most cases, this problem is temporary and returns to normal within a few minutes.

There is also evidence that crossing legs can affect sperm production. The reason is that the temperature of the testes must be 2 to 6 degrees Celsius lower than the normal body temperature. Sitting increases the temperature of the testes by 2 degrees Celsius and crossing legs can increase the temperature of the testes by 3.5 degrees Celsius. The increase in scrotal or testicular temperature can reduce the number and quality of sperm.

Due to the differences in anatomy between men and women, sitting in this position is easier for women, especially since men have a lower range of motion in the pelvic area.

Legs and Joints

But research shows that placing your foot on your leg while sitting can be helpful for some people. For example, a small study in 2016 found that sitting in this way could help regulate the height of the two sides of the pelvis and improve alignment in people whose one foot is higher than the other.

It also seems that crossing legs reduces the activity of some muscles, especially oblique muscles compared to sitting with the legs forward. This may help central muscle relaxation and prevent excessive pressure. Similarly, there is evidence that sitting cross-legged improves the stability of the hip joint (the area responsible for weight transfer between the spine and legs).

Of course, in one of the famous yoga or meditation postures known as the Lotus or High Plank posture, individuals sit with their legs crossing each other diagonally. There is limited data on whether spending a lot of time in this position could create problems similar to those caused by sitting with legs crossed on a chair. In fact, yoga has many advantages for many people, including those with knee problems.

So what’s the result? If you can, it’s better to avoid crossing your legs while sitting. It is said that many of the risks associated with crossing legs are exacerbated by other problems such as a sedentary lifestyle and obesity. Therefore, considering this issue, the main recommendation is to avoid sitting still for long periods of time and to be physically active regularly.

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