Fidget Your Way To Better Cardiovascular Health

Fidgeting Cardiovascular Benefits

You know that person in your class who can’t seem to sit still? The one who always seems restless, tapping their pen, jostling their legs, and just fidgeting around? Maybe that person is even you – either way, it turns out that fidgeting can actually have real health benefits.

A recently published article details how fidgeting can protect the arteries in legs and potentially help prevent arterial disease, according to a recent study titled “Prolonged Sitting-induced Leg Endothelial Dysfunction is Prevented by Fidgeting”.

During the study researchers from the University of Missouri observed 11 healthy and fit young men and women before and after a three hour stint of sitting. The results were more than researchers anticipated.

“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.” said Jaume Padilla, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at MU and lead author of the study.

The study was recently published by the American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology and though the sample size was almost negligibly small, their findings are also supported by the National Institutes of Health and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.

Here’s how the study worked. First, volunteers were asked to fidget just one leg in intervals of one minute of fidgeting, followed by four minutes of leg rest – without moving the other leg at all. Researchers then measured the increased blood flow of an artery in the lower leg – known as the popliteal – while finding that the other leg experienced a reduction in blood flow.

For the many Americans who are bound to sitting in one place for extended hours, i.e. for an office job, being overweight, or having a disability, something as small as fidgeting can actually be of more vascular health value than previously noted.

“[…] 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.

Surprisingly, researchers discovered that the stress caused on the arterial walls from the increased blood flow really does have its importance in vascular health.

Don’t get me wrong: fidgeting does not replace regular exercise, such as walking, jogging, or even the newly fashioned Pokemon GO, however, if you must sit for prolonged periods of time, don’t stop at one – please, fidget both legs!

Led by Padilla, the research team included Jill Kanaley, Ph.D., professor and associate chair of the MU Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology; Lauren Walsh, graduate student in the MU Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology; Robert Restaino, graduate student in the MU Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology; Takuma Morishima, Ph.D., postdoctoral fellow in the MU Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology; and Paul Fadel, Ph.D., professor of kinesiology and director of clinical translational science at the University of Texas at Arlington College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

See the full study here.

Joseph Bryant
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