Fidget Your Way To Better Heart Health?

Health Articles
September 15, 2016

Whether it’s bouncing your knee, rolling your ankles or tap-dancing under your desk, it seems like some of us just can’t sit still. Thanks to a recent study, we may not have to!

Don’t Sit Still For This News…

In our modern world full of computers, conference calls, commutes and classrooms, much of our day-to-day living is done sitting down. Many of us spend the first half-hour of our day seated in a car, bus or train. Then, we walk up a flight of stairs—or just take the elevator to our offices—where we sit until lunchtime. According to a 2013 survey by Ergotron, the average American spends an average of 13 hours a day sitting and another 8 hours sleeping. That only leaves us with about three hours of activity.

Improved blood flow for fidgeters

A recent article in the New York Times titled, Why Fidgeting is Good Medicine, discusses a new study with findings that suggest that fidgeting, the thing your teachers always told you to stop doing, may actually be beneficial to your health. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Physiology, hypothesized that “sitting-induced reductions in shear stress and ensuing endothelial dysfunction would be prevented by periodic leg movement or ‘fidgeting.’” In other words, the negative impact sitting for extended period of time has on your blood vessels may be prevented through fidgeting.
The study found eleven, “young, healthy subjects” who were asked to sit for three straight hours without standing up. Before and after the sitting period, measurements of artery flow were taken on each of their legs. During the study, subjects used one leg to fidget on a five-minute cycle (1 minute of movement, 4 minutes of rest) while keeping their other leg—or control leg—still. This continued throughout the experiment, and at the end of the three hours, researchers found that the leg which had been allowed to fidget had a “pronounced increase in popliteal artery blood flow” compared to the leg which had remained still.

Dr. Jaume Padilla, an assistant professor at the University of Missouri who led the study, reported that he and his team “were surprised by the magnitude of the difference” between the sedentary leg and the leg that had been allowed movement. When explaining the implications of the study to the New York Times, he said that although “the muscular contractions associated with fidgeting are really quite small … it appears that they are sufficient” in maintaining healthy circulation.
Although the study was limited to a small group of young subjects who were considered to be healthy, and it may be necessary to repeat the process using a larger subject pool, the general results seem to point towards fidgeting as an important part of maintaining our cardiovascular health while seated throughout the day.
So, whether you’re at work or school, if you can’t get up and move around during the day, don’t feel guilty about fidgeting. Go ahead, bounce, wiggle, and work on that tap-dance routine under your desk.