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Why People Who Fidget Might Be Healthier

By Hillary Eaton ; Updated August 14, 2017

If people give you a hard time for being a fidgeter, science has some good news for you: Your fidgeting actually makes you healthier.

A recent study published in American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology shows that fidgeting is good for your heart health. Particularly the health related concerns all the sitting we do — from Netflix binges to long work hours at our desks.

So how do we stay healthy while doing all that sitting? By fidgeting, of course. Looking for unobtrusive ways to stay healthy throughout the day, Dr. Jaume Padilla, one of the doctors in charge of the study, thought it was possible that fidgeting with your legs and feet might possibly result in enough muscular activity to get sufficient blood flow to the legs.

The New York Times report on the study says that sitting for long periods of time can have many adverse effects — from weight gain to increased risk for diabetes — but the most pertinent one hurts our vascular system.

“Studies show that uninterrupted sitting causes an abrupt and significant decline in blood flow to the legs,” The New York Times wrote. “This is problematic since, when blood flow drops, friction along the vessel walls also declines. The cells that line these walls, which can sense changes in the friction, begin to pump out proteins that contribute over time to hardening and narrowing of the arteries.”

How Does Fidgeting Help?

To test his theory that fidgeting might increase blood flow significantly, Padilla used a group of 11 college students and measured their arterial health through ultrasound and a blood pressure cuff. He then told each student to sit at a desk for three hours while the researchers monitored the blood flow of each leg. He then told them to keep one leg completely still for the duration of the test, while the other was allowed to go crazy with fidgeting for one out of every five minutes.

What happened was that the blood flow in the still leg went down while the blood flow in the fidgeting leg increased. Even cooler? When the blood pressure was tested at the end, the blood pressure in the still leg was lower than the baseline levels, implying that it was already damaged from being still. But the blood pressure from the fidgeting leg was on par or even higher than baseline levels before. Fidgeting for the win!

“To be honest, we were surprised by the magnitude of the difference” between the two legs, Dr. Padilla told the New York Times.

So next time you’re sitting at your desk or binge watching your favorite show, if you can’t get up and shake it out or go for a walk, feel free to fidget.

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