Are you comfortably seated? Stop for a moment and, without adjusting, notice your posture. What are your legs doing? Are they crossed? And are you a right or left crosser? Some 62% of people cross from right to left, 26% go the other way and 12% have no preference.

There are usually two ways to sit in a chair and cross your legs, one at the knee and the other at the ankle. But as comfortable as it may be to sit cross-legged, is it bad for your health and posture? Let’s take a look at the evidence.

For starters, research shows that sitting cross-legged can increase hip misalignment, with one being higher than the other.

And it changes the speed at which blood moves through blood vessels in the lower extremities, which can increase the risk of blood clots.

Most research suggests that crossing at the knees is worse than crossing at the ankles. This is because sitting this way can cause your blood pressure to rise due to the buildup of blood in the veins and your heart has to work against this. And it can increase the risk of damaging your blood vessels, so when you have your blood pressure taken you should have your feet flat on the floor.

Effect on the body

The longer and more often you sit cross-legged, the more likely you are to experience long-term changes in muscle length and bone arrangement in your pelvis. And because of the way your skeleton is linked, crossing your legs can also lead to misalignment in your spine and shoulders.

Your head position can potentially become misaligned due to changes in the neck bones, as the spine compensates to keep your center of gravity above the pelvis.

Your neck can also be affected because one side of the body is weaker than the other. The same imbalance can be seen in the muscles of the pelvis and lower back due to poor posture and the stresses and strains caused by sitting cross-legged.

The pelvis can also be misaligned due to prolonged stretching of the gluteal (gluteal) muscles on one side, which means they become weak.

Sitting with your legs crossed for a long time increases the risk of scoliosis (abnormal alignment of the spine) and other deformities. It can also cause greater trochanteric pain syndrome, a common and painful condition that affects the outer side of the hip and thigh.

Research also shows that sitting with your legs crossed can put the peroneal nerve, also known as the fibular nerve, in the lower leg at risk for compression and injury. This usually manifests as weakness when trying to lift the little toe side of the foot as well as the more concerning drop foot – where the entire foot hangs down. Although in most cases this is short-lived and returns to normal within minutes.

There is also some evidence that crossing your legs could affect sperm production. Indeed, the temperature of the testicles must be between 2°C and 6°C below the standard body temperature. Sitting increases testicular temperature by 2°C and crossing the legs can increase testicular temperature by up to 3.5°C. And studies suggest that an increase in the temperature of the scrotum or testicles can reduce both sperm count and quality.

It’s also worth noting that due to the differences in anatomy between men and women, it’s probably much easier for women to sit cross-legged, especially since men have a reduced range of motion. at the hips.

Legs and joints

But research indicates that sitting cross-legged may be beneficial for some people. A small 2016 study, for example, found that for people who have one leg longer than the other, sitting cross-legged can help adjust the height on both sides of the pelvis, improving alignment.

Sitting with your legs crossed also seems to reduce the activity of certain muscles, especially the oblique muscles (the ones under the skin where you put your hands on your hips), compared to sitting with your legs forward. . This can help relax your abdominal muscles and prevent overexertion.

Likewise, sitting cross-legged has been shown to improve the stability of the sacroiliac joints (responsible for transferring weight between the spine and the legs).

And, of course, the famous yoga or meditation pose (lotus position) sees people sitting on the floor with their legs crossed. Although there is limited data on whether long periods of time in this position can lead to some of the problems caused by sitting cross-legged in a chair. Indeed, for many people, yoga offers huge benefits, even those who already have knee problems.

So verdict? It’s probably best to avoid crossing your legs if you can. That said, many of the risk factors associated with crossing legs are likely exacerbated by other underlying issues such as physical inactivity and obesity. So with that in mind, the main advice is to not sit in one position for too long and to keep active on a regular basis.

This article was originally published on The Conversation by Adam Taylor at Lancaster University. Read the original article here.

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