Is crossing your legs good for you?

Whether you are sitting on your backyard deck, riding the subway, or patiently awaiting an appointment in the waiting room, sitting with your legs crossed is just plain comfortable.

Circulation | Healthy legs – varicose veins

Dominique Vanier
Dominique Vanier

28 June 2017

Crossing your legs = Musculoskeletal complications

A study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science identified adverse postural changes in individuals who sit for more than three hours a day with their legs crossed. Specifically, those who crossed their legs were found more likely to suffer from pelvic rotation, abnormal shoulder angles, and a head-forward posture.

Musculoskeletal complications are only one example of how crossing your legs may adversely affect health.

Sitting with crossed legs may also impact the cardiovascular system. By frequently sitting with crossed legs, additional stress on the hip joints coupled with vein compression may lead to pooling of blood in the lower limbs in susceptible individuals.

This risks causing inflammation of the veins of the lower legs and, as a worse case scenario, a blood clot.

Impact on the cardiovascular system

Cross-legged postures can impact blood pressure as well. In a study published by the journal Blood Pressure Monitor, systolic blood pressure increased in all individuals regardless of their resting blood pressure level when their legs were crossed at the knee in the sitting position.

In fact, blood pressure increased the most in those with a pre-existing diagnosis of high blood pressure or diabetes. Fortunately, sitting cross-legged has not been found to have long-term effects on blood pressure.

While sitting cross-legged may have some adverse health effects, contrary to common belief, it does not seem to be a risk factor for the development of varicose veins. However, varicose veins have a strong connection to family history – so, if your mother or grandmother suffered from this condition, this too may be in your future.

Avoiding sitting cross-legged is a step in the right direction to helping your circulation and posture, but there are other diet and lifestyle modifications that go a long way as well!

If you experience poor circulation, below are helpful tips to get the blood flowing naturally:

  • Any type of exercise that increases heart rate will also increase circulation, as it forces blood to move at a faster rate through the body per minute. Activities such as running, brisk walking, swimming, tennis, and strength training are all effective at increasing circulation.
  • Enjoy a healthy diet. Consuming a healthy diet high in fruits, green leafy vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats can help improve vascular health, which can in turn improve circulation.
  • Rubbing of the skin during massage increases skin temperature and enhances blood flow to the massaged area. To prolong the relaxation experience, try adding essential oils during your massage, such as peppermint or lavender.
  • Take breaks. If you sit or stand for prolonged periods of time, take a short break every half hour to walk around. This promotes better circulation and can help reset your thoughts for when you get back to work.
  • Sprinkle cayenne in your shoes. Cayenne is a warming herb that can have cardiovascular impacts when used both internally or externally. To promote circulation to the feet, try sprinkling the herb in your shoes. But be careful – cayenne can have a burning effect on the skin, so it is best to use only pinch in each shoe and wear socks to avoid direct contact with the spice. Ensure to wash hands thoroughly after handling.
  • Heal from the inside. Horse chestnut, otherwise known as Aesculus hippocastanum, has astringent, vaso-protective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-oxidant properties. If you suffer from venous insufficiency – such as varicose veins or heavy, tired legs – consider trying Venaforce, which contains fresh extract of horse chestnut.
  • Drink warm tea. If you suffer from cold hands and feet due to poor circulation, drinking a hot beverage can help warm the body. Directly touching the hot cup will warm up chilly hands, and the hot tea will create a feeling of warmth in the stomach.
  • See your doctor. It is important to work with your primary healthcare provider to ensure optimal cardiovascular health and to find the best treatment plan for you.


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