You may have heard that “sitting is new smoking.”
It’s a way of saying that sitting too much takes a toll on your health that is comparable to smoking. Researchers have found that remaining in a seated position for hours at a time without getting up increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.
Now, new research shows that sitting with your legs crossed in a chair is particularly damaging.
Dr. Naresh C. Rao is a clinical instructor at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. He says sitting cross-legged “is not a nice ergonomic condition.”
Dr. Rao said he sees many patients with chronic knee, hip, and back pain from sitting for long periods with their legs crossed. Clinical researchers say that sitting this way not only causes orthopedic problems, but it can increase your blood pressure, cause nerve pain, and exacerbate spider or varicose veins.
Sitting with your legs crossed puts your hips in a twisted position. This then puts pressure on your back and neck. The longer you sit with your legs crossed, the more pressure you put on your spine. This increases the odds you’ll develop a painful back or joint issue.
Sitting cross-legged regularly for long periods can cause permanent damage, Dr. Rao said. And it doesn’t seem to matter if it’s left leg over right leg or vice-versa.
He recommends sitting with your knees crossed for no longer than it would take you to drink a cup of coffee…about 5-10 minutes.
3 Health Problems Caused by Sitting Cross-Legged
1.) Nerve pain: Crossing your legs at the knees creates pressure on the peroneal nerve. It’s located in the back of the knee. This can cause tingling or pain in the feet after sitting this way for a prolonged period. The numbness is your body warning you to change positions.
Some podiatrists who specialize in nerve pain warn that repeatedly sitting with your legs crossed for long periods can lead to permanent nerve damage.
2.) Higher blood pressure: Several studies have found crossing your legs leads to a temporary increase in blood pressure. This does not necessarily cause heart problems. But it could be dangerous for people prone to blood clots, doctors say. 
3.) Spider and varicose veins: The medical community is split over whether leg crossing causes varicose veins. Dr. Hooman Madyoon is a cardiologist at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He specializes in venous diseases.
Dr. Madyoon says that at the least, sitting cross-legged appears to worsen existing varicose veins. He says the pressure of one leg sitting on top of the other impedes blood flow. This can cause compromised blood vessels to rupture.
The Best Way to Sit
One note of clarification: The studies we list here refer to sitting cross-legged in a chair. They did not examine sitting on the floor cross-legged in what is commonly known as the lotus position. There is no evidence that the lotus position is damaging to health.
Good posture, whether sitting or standing, has been shown to prevent back problems and lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. It also improves lung function.
Dr. Rao tells his patients to sit with legs uncrossed with feet flat on the floor. If you want to sit back, use a foot stool to prop up your legs.
He tells every patient who has a desk job to get up at least once every 55 minutes and walk around for 5 minutes. “That makes a huge difference,” he said.
If necessary, set your cell phone alarm to go off every hour to remind yourself to get up.
Dr. Rao adds: “Our bodies are meant to move.”
Editor’s Note: Unlike much of the mainstream media, we don’t accept advertising from Big Pharma. That’s why you can count on us for unbiased medical information. Our only motivation is your good health.
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