Women have been taught for decades to sit with their legs crossed, the position associated with being “ladylike” and having a “good upbringing.” While sitting legs crossed certainly adds some feminine charm and enhances the beauty of the human leg, the reality is it’s actually harmful to women’s health.
The human body wasn’t designed for visual appeal; it was designed for functionality. Based on that understanding, it makes sense that the act of sitting properly is simple and balanced, meaning back straight, both feet flat on the ground or extended in equal positions. When a woman–or man– crosses one leg over the other to sit, it puts the lower back out of alignment and can lead to rotation of the pelvic bone.
Once the back is out of alignment, everything else above the hip starts to suffer. According to orthopedic physical therapist Vivian Eisenstadt, torquing the pelvis puts pressure on the neck and rest of the back. The longer a person sits with one leg crossed over the other, the more likely he or she is to develop an issue.
Stress on the spine isn’t the only area of concern. A study published in the journal Blood Pressure Monitoring found sitting with one leg crossed over the other can raise a person’s blood pressure. “Frequent crossing of the legs also puts stress on the hip joints and can cause pooling of blood in the legs when the veins are compressed, Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, FACC, told Prevention. “This could predispose you to inflammation of the veins of the lower legs and possibly a blood clot.
Another reason to avoid crossing your legs has to do with spider veins, small, red, purple, and blue vessels that branch out from larger veins right at the skin’s surface. Though the evidence suggesting a link between leg crossing and spider veins is minimal and some experts say inconclusive, there is a possibility that crossing the legs builds pressure in veins, weakening or damaging the vessels. Damaged vessels allow blood to leak, which can cause spider veins or create exacerbate existing ones.
If you’ve ever experienced a loss of sensation or numbness while sitting with your legs crossed, experts warn that is another reason to avoid the awkward position. Though a “pins and needles” feeling goes away as circulation returns, this chronic feeling can result in permanent nerve damage in the extremities.
Thankfully, all these issues can be avoided by just sitting without crossing the legs. Ladies, it is still possible to sit in a feminine style; just sit with knees together as an elegant alternative.