Isn’t it a comfortable position though? I’m sure most of us (especially ladies out there) are so used to crossing our legs while sitting down, sometimes we do it subconsciously too! It’s such a secure sitting position that makes us look so proper and polite. However, as harmless as crossing our legs at the knees may seem, you’re actually better off not doing it at all.
Barack Obama (left) and Ariana Grande (right) crossing their legs at talk shows.
The harmless, “ladylike” or sophisticated position of crossing your legs could actually cause a plethora of back or hip pain. This is because, when you cross your legs, your pelvis rotates, which makes your lower spine rotate too. Your spine is quite resilient against vertical forces but is weak against rotational forces. In other words you could be wearing the most expensive and comfortable shoes, and you’ve invested in insoles with amazing arch support so that you can have great posture, all these factors would become anything but useful if you cross your legs! The spinal joints will become strained and cause pain in your lower back. Additionally, putting all your body weight on one leg can make your entire body lean to that side and place unhealthy pressure on the hip you’re leaning on.
Sitting like this can also allow your lower spine to bend forward, creating an upward ripple effect; your torso leans forward and the head follows. Based on an experiment that studies postures while sitting with the legs crossed, if you spend more than 3 hours with your legs crossed every day, your head could be sticking forward. This habitual posture causes neck pain because the neck muscles and joints will need to hold more weight when the neck is sticking forward.
Sitting cross legged can even affect the way you walk and run overtime. When your right leg rests above your left for a prolonged period, the muscle at the top of your right buttock is stretched and can become weak over time. These muscles are in charge of keeping your hips levelled and stable when you have one leg off the ground during walking or running. If this muscle on your right is weak, your left hip tilts downwards when your leg is on the ground. Although there is footwear technology like insole arch support that could restore some evenness while you go about your day, your walking and running gait would change if your hip is not balanced. Not to mention other common leg related problems that come with sitting with your legs crossed like knee pain when bent, knee pain when walking or cause micro tears in the achilles tendon because of the lack of blood supply.
Some people may argue that crossing the legs can help stabilise the hips when sitting. Well to further prove this theory wrong, posture expert Lindsay Newitter explains that people who seek stabilisation from crossing the legs could have weak core strength in the first place. By maintaining the habit of sitting up straight, your core muscles in your abdominal area will need to work harder and hence will naturally strengthen over time and you won’t have to rely on crossing your legs to sit securely.
All in all, this simple action of slinging one leg over the other can cause your entire spine to deviate from its ideal, neutral alignment. Only when you sit with both feet on the ground and with your head, shoulders, and hip vertically aligned, then the spine is in a position that requires minimal effort from your muscles to support.
If you’re furiously typing away at work one day and look down to find that you have unknowingly crossed your legs, there’s no need to start panicking. The bad effects of this posture are unlikely to set in immediately, and accidentally sitting this way for 5-10 minutes wouldn’t put you through much harm. However, you should definitely kick this habit out as soon as possible—After all, we think you look the most sophisticated when you’re not suffering from knee pain when walking or hunched over from back pain.
Monday's medical myth: crossing your legs is bad for your health - https://theconversation.com/mondays-medical-myth-crossing-your-legs-is-bad-for-your-health-12697#:~:text=Crossing%20your%20legs%20may%20draw,discomfort%20when%20crossing%20their%20legs.
Crossing your legs is bad for you - https://www.womensrunning.co.uk/health/crossing-your-legs-is-bad-for-you/
Is crossing your legs bad for you? Here's what a doctor has to say - https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/health-fitness/crossing-your-legs-bad-doctor/
This is Why You Cross Your Legs - https://bestlifeonline.com/sitting-cross-legged/#:~:text=%22Your%20body%20is%20designed%20to,discomfort%20in%20all%20its%20forms.
Christina's 7 Easy Tricks For Knee Pain - https://panettapt.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Christina%E2%80%99s-7-Easy-Tricks-For-Knee-Pain.pdf