I was in a Zoom meeting last week, and the physical therapist in attendance reminded us that October is National Physical Therapy Month, an annual opportunity to raise awareness about the benefits of physical therapy. Like most older adults or baby boomers, if you’ve had lower back pain or arthritis, I know you can appreciate this recognition.
But for this year, the PT asked that we re-name the month to Uncrossed-‘tober. That’s right, he wants to remind us not to cross our legs! This sounded like a reasonable request, so I decided to look into the claims that crossing your legs is not good for you. Here’s what I found out.
The Good News
Many people have heard that crossing your legs can cause varicose veins. While 23% of American adults develop this unsightly problem, varicose veins are usually not dangerous. So the statement that leg crossing can cause the condition is simply not true. Both sitting and standing for long periods of time are associated with bulging veins, but there’s no evidence that leg crossing is the culprit.
The Not-So-Good News
Another claim for the case to avoid leg crossing is that it will cause high blood pressure (hypertension). But studies show only a slight, temporary increase in blood pressure when crossing your legs at the knee level, but not at the ankles. So if you have hypertension, it’s probably best to avoid having your legs crossed for long periods of time.
And the Bad News
The one area our PT focused on, confirmed by my research, is the connection between leg crossing and posture. This is because your pelvis can rotate and tilt with prolonged knee-level leg crossing, leading to lower back pain, spinal misalignment, and eventually pain and stiffness. And with all the sitting we’re doing recently, this is an area we really need to be careful about.
I heard this sage advice back in 1978, and it still holds true today for so many health behaviors: everything in moderation! If you do cross your legs because it’s a comfortable way to sit, do so for a short period of time. Move your legs around, cross and uncross your ankles, stand every so often. Your legs, and your back, will thank you!
For more information about ways to improve your fitness and health, reach out to me. Let’s see if any of my programs might help you.