Think Twice Before Sitting With Your Legs Crossed. Here's Why

You probably already know that sitting too much is bad for your health. In fact, sitting for prolonged periods of time is associated with a higher risk of death from all causes, according to a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. However, what about sitting with your legs crossed (one leg over the other). How bad is it, really? 

One claim is that it causes varicose veins, but that's just not true. Varicose veins are caused by valve weakness, a family history of varicose veins, old age, or if you have higher blood pressure due to obesity or pregnancy (via Aurora Healthcare). With varicose veins out, what health problems should you worry about if you sit with your legs crossed?

Sitting with your legs crossed can result in some health problems, including causing back pain, leading to bad posture, and increasing your risk of clots.

Bad posture and back pain

A 2016 study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that sitting with the right leg crossed over the left leg resulted in an asymmetry in the back and trunk — specifically a shorter trunk on the right and pelvic torsion on the right side of the body with the opposite effect on the left side of the body. When sitting with the right leg over the left, the right side becomes shorter and more concave, and the left side becomes convex. 

This study was completed on 30 healthy people (12 women and 18 men). The researchers performed spinal posture tests on the participants' trunk length and pelvic torsion using a 3D image-based diagnostic system. The study further found that sitting with your legs crossed can result in back pain due to the asymmetry of the trunk. It can even lead to spinal deformities, scoliosis, and a limp when walking. Essentially, sitting with your legs crossed can have serious consequences.

Increased risk of blood clots

Good blood circulation is important for good overall health. Basically, you breathe oxygen in and your heart delivers oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and brain through your veins (via the Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care). You are cutting off some of your circulation when you're crossing your legs, which isn't too bad if done for a short period of time (such as 10 to 15 minutes) — but any longer than that, issues can crop up. There are some people who are more at risk for blood clots, according to the CDC. This includes people who have had surgery, those who have been hospitalized, anyone with cancer, people going through certain types of cancer treatments, and anyone with a family history of blood clots. 

You should avoid crossing your legs or sitting for long periods of time if you have any of these risk factors for blood clots. That can be difficult when you work at a desk all day, right? Here are some tips on staying healthy while sitting all day (via Mayo Clinic). Take a break every 30 minutes and walk around. Stand whenever possible, such as when you're on the phone or watching TV. Try a standing desk so you can stand even while you're working. Add a treadmill to your standing desk so you can walk while you work, and if you have in-person meetings with colleagues, go for a walk together instead of sitting in a boardroom.