For the past few years we’ve heard feminists and liberals whining about ‘manspreading’ and how it is an important feminist issue, or how rude and egotistical it is for a man to do it. It’s pretty hilarious how out of touch, and privileged you’d actually have to be to spend any amount of time seriously advocating for 2 inches of extra space, but I digress. Haven’t these women ever thought “instead of dictating how other people sit, maybe I’ll just start doing it too!” Well they should, because not only is more comfortable for men, studies show that It might also be healthier for women to spread their legs when they sit too.
Uncross those legs ladies! Sitting with crossed legs at the knees can increase blood pressure according to a study published in Blood Pressure Monitoring, that randomly allocated Fifty healthy volunteers and 53 patients with hypertension. It concluded that “Blood pressure increases when legs are crossed and this increases the estimation of cardiovascular risk for many patients. Care should be taken to ensure that the patients feet are flat on the floor when measuring their blood pressure.” This is because you are temporarily compressing big blood vessels, forcing blood to flow slower through those areas. Because part of your circulatory system is cut off, this can lead to a temporary spike in blood pressure. This may not be too big of a problem for someone who is younger, but imagine this issue for someone who might be older and or already suffering from high blood pressure. This issue does return to normal however, usually as soon as you uncross your legs.
Have you ever heard of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)? DVT is a preventable but medical condition that occurs when a blood clot forms in a deep vein, and frequently develops in the lower leg, thigh or pelvis. This is usually caused by sitting for LONG periods of time, such as having a desk job, or an illness where you are confined to a bed, so sitting cross legged on the subway a few times a week isn’t going to cause this, but it can definitely exacerbate the issue. Crossing your legs frequently can cause blood to pool in the legs when veins are compressed. Especially if you have any risk factors already such as increased estrogen from Birth control pills, Hormone replacement therapy or Pregnancy, Chronic medical conditions, slow blood flow, or injury to a vein.
Nerve issues could also be a possible side effect. Peroneal nerve dysfunction is characterized by decreased sensation, numbness or tingling in the foot/legs, along with walking abnormalities, and a weakness of the ankles or feet. The peroneal nerve is a branch of the sciatic nerve, which supplies movement and sensation to the lower extremities. According the American Center for Spine and Neurosurgery;
“Damage to this nerve is most often caused by a one time injury, such as a knee, leg, or ankle sprain or fracture; however, it can also be caused by habitual leg crossing, and prolonged immobility. This condition can affect people at any age.”
According to Vivian Eisenstadt, an orthopedic physical therapist via yahoo health, crossing your legs can also lead to neck and back pain. She explains how sitting with legs crossed can lead to the rotation of one of your pelvic bones, which is the base of support for your spine, and the longer you sit with your legs crossed, the more pressure your spine endures. She states: “Days and weeks of doing this are one of the main reasons we have back and neck pain, as well as herniated discs.”
This study also showed that habitual asymmetric sitting postures, specifically crossing your legs, results in 80-90% of low back pain. It also notes that specifically sitting with crossed legs can lead to spinal imbalances, which can in turn lead to poor posture. According to the BBC, a study found that people who sat with their legs crossed for more than three hours a day were more likely to lean forward and round their shoulders. Crossing your legs also puts uneven pressure on your joints and hips because your weight is concentrated onto one side of your pelvis.
There’s also this study, that studied the effect of right leg-crossed sitting posture, sitting cross legged led to a decline in the right trunk length with time, and increased the rotation of the right pelvis compared to the left. This throws your posture all out of whack, and in turn forces more pressure onto the sacroiliac joint and hip socket. and over time, could cause sciatica in people who have certain pre-dispositions to developing back and leg pain.
Since This sitting position puts the pressure of one leg on top of the other, and can impedes blood flow, It seems logical to assume that it can also weaken or damage the veins in your legs. If your veins are damaged or weakened, blood could possibly leak into them and pool there as well, which could perhaps cause the appearance of spider veins, or if you already have them, exacerbate them, although the cause of varicose veins still largely remain a mystery and there is no definitive proof linking leg crossing to developing spider veins.
Other than any possible long term effects, there is also that awful “pins and needles feeling” no one likes, along with just an all around feeling of discomfort. All in all, unless you’re sitting cross legged for hours at a time every single day, you probably won’t run into these issues, but you might as well play it safe. So let’s all just spreading our legs, for the good of man and womankind!