Inactivity and sedentary behaviors are leading to health problems for U.S. consumers. The risk of cardiovascular disease increases when blood flow to the legs is reduced – something that naturally happens with long periods of sitting.
While getting up and staying active is the best way to reverse the effects of long-term sitting, a new study from the University of Missouri shows that tapping your feet and fidgeting may be a good way to increase blood flow – not only to your legs, but to your entire body.
“Many of us sit for hours at a time, whether it’s binge watching our favorite TV show or working at a computer. We wanted to know whether a small amount of leg fidgeting could prevent a decline in leg vascular function caused by prolonged sitting,” said lead author Dr. Jaume Padilla.
“While we expected fidgeting to increase blood flow to the lower limbs, we were quite surprised to find this would be sufficient to prevent a decline in arterial function.”
Fidgeting health benefits
The researchers came to their conclusions after observing the effects of fidgeting on vascular function in 11 healthy men and women. Each participant was asked sit for three hours under special conditions; while they were charged with keeping one leg still, they were asked to tap the foot of the other leg for one minute every five minutes.
After the three-hour period, the researchers measured blood flow to the popliteal artery in each leg for every participant. They found that the “active” leg for each participant had a significantly higher blood flow, indicating that fidgeting improves vascular function.
The study is the first to show that fidgeting can have protective benefits for vascular health. However, the researchers stress that the best way to counter the effects of sitting is to get up and stay active.
“You should attempt to break up sitting time as much as possible by standing or walking. But if you’re stuck in a situation in which walking just isn’t an option, fidgeting can be a good alternative. Any movement is better than no movement,” said Padilla.
The full study has been published in the American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology.