Sitting with legs crossed at the knee can bump up blood pressure, according to a study published in Blood Pressure Monitoring. Leg crossing increased systolic blood pressure nearly 7% and diastolic by 2%. “Frequent crossing of the legs also puts stress on the hip joints and can cause pooling of blood in the legs when the veins are compressed,” says Stephen T. Sinatra, MD, FACC, a Connecticut-based cardiologist and author of The Great Cholesterol Myth. “This could predispose you to inflammation of the veins of the lower legs and possibly a blood clot.” Dr. Sinatra says to avoid crossing your legs for longer than 10 to 15 minutes, and to get up and walk around every half hour or so.
One of the reasons for this is that when you put one knee over the other, it sends blood from the legs up to the chest, resulting in a larger quantity of blood being pumped out of the heart, which in turn increases your blood pressure. Another possible explanation is that blood pressure rises because isometric exercise of the leg muscles (exercise when your joints don’t move and muscles don’t change in length) increases the resistance to the blood flow. That is why crossing your legs at the ankles doesn’t have the same effect as when you cross one leg over the other.
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