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You’re probably sitting wrong: the dangers of leg-crossing 

Don’t move. Don’t think about it. Just answer honestly: how are you sitting right now? 

Are both feet flat on the floor? Or do you have one leg or ankle crossed over the other? 

We hate to break it to you, but if sitting with your legs crossed is your favorite way to sit, we’re about to ruin it for you. Today, we’re talking about the medical and structural reasons why sitting cross-legged is bad for you and how you can train yourself to sit properly. 

4 reasons you should never cross your legs while sitting 

Risk of deep-vein thrombosis

Deep-vein thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a major vein, usually within the legs. The risk of clots is minimized when blood flows freely, which can’t happen if your crossed legs restrict the flow. 

Increased blood pressure

There’s a reason your nurse always asks you to sit with both feet on the floor during your blood pressure reading— crossing your legs can temporarily increase your blood pressure. When you cross your legs, you compress your veins, and your heart must work harder to keep blood pumping throughout your body. 

Nerve damage

In extreme cases, crossing your legs at the knee can cause potentially permanent nerve damage, called peroneal nerve palsy. Characterized by muscle weakness and pain from your kneecap pressing against your peroneal nerve, this injury can be avoided if you keep both feet on the ground. 

Structural changes to your bones and muscles

According to a study in Germany, “62% of the population are right leg-crossers, 26% are left leg-crossers, and the remaining 12% report that they have no preference or are indifferent.” That means 88% of people always cross in the same direction. And consistent twisting can have lasting results— leading to variances in muscle lengths and the misalignment of your spine and shoulders. 

Why is sitting cross-legged so comfortable?

More than just following in the prim and proper high-heeled footsteps of our ancestors, sitting with legs or ankles crossed just feels good, doesn’t it? 

When you cross your legs, you shift backward slightly, taking pressure off of your lower back. It also allows your core to take a holiday, with no abdominal strength needed to sit cross-legged.

How can I break the habit of sitting with my legs crossed? 

Sitting with your legs crossed may feel good in the moment, but just like John Mellencamp’s famous song, it “hurts so good.” 

To avoid current or future damage, break the habit now. You may need to set an alarm on your phone every 15 minutes as a reminder to check your sitting position in the beginning, but it will get easier, and your body will thank you. 

While this advice is good for everyone, certain groups have an increased risk of negative effects. Don’t wait another minute to make a change if you are: 

  • Female
  • Pregnant
  • Diabetic
  • Hypertensive
  • Inactive
  • Overweight
  • A smoker

Strengthening your abs is one way to make sitting properly feel more natural. Sign up for Enhanced Toning classes and train your core. 

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