You’ve likely heard it from someone, whether it’s your mom, gran, friend or colleague, that sitting with your legs crossed is bad for you. Some say it gives you high blood pressure, while others say it slows your circulation. Your mom or gran probably told you that it gives you varicose veins!
But is there any truth to these claims?
What does the evidence say?
One of the reasons you’re advised to uncross your legs is because blood pressure rises slightly when you do cross them at the knee. Is this bad though? Well, elevated blood pressure is never a good thing, but there’s no evidence to suggest that crossing your legs contributes to ongoing high blood pressure. In any case, once you uncross your legs, your blood pressure returns to normal.
If you happen to be having your blood pressure measured, however, then its best to have both feet firmly on the floor, to avoid a false reading. If you’ve already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, then you might want to avoid crossing your legs for long periods of time.
There’s a flip side though. If you’re prone to low blood pressure, and feel a bit faint and wobbly when you stand up too quickly, then leg crossing could work to your advantage. As you stand up, your blood pressure drops, and blood is pulled downwards to your extremities, thanks to gravity.
It’s because of this movement of blood moving away from your brain that you feel woozy and need to hold onto something to keep your balance.
By crossing your legs and increasing your blood pressure slightly, you could save yourself some dizziness.
So what about those horrible varicose veins?
They appear more often in women, so being “a lady” and crossing your pins MUST be the cause, right? Wrong! While crossing your legs may draw more attention to varicose veins, research gets your legs off the hook for this one. If you have varicose veins, it’s more likely the result of genes, and how well the valves inside the veins function.
Pins and needles
If you’re concerned about long-term nerve damage when you get pins and needles after sitting with your legs crossed for a while, fear not! Prolonged compression of the nerve that runs along the outer part of your knee can sometimes make your foot “fall asleep”. So no, it’s not dangerous, and the feeling should return to normal after a few minutes.
So what’s the real problem?
Sitting in general for long periods of time isn’t great for your circulation. If you work an office job, we recommend getting up from your chair every 30 minutes or so, to stretch your legs and keep the blood flowing properly.