If you are always fidgeting like me, then good news! You have one less thing to worry about. A recently publish paper in the American Journal of Physiology found that fidgeting helps blood flow in the legs during prolonged periods of sitting.
The dangers in the workplace from sitting all day are well established and include increased risks of obesity, heart disease and diabetes for an employee population, as well as lower overall productivity.
However, the immediate danger is to our blood vessels. Increasing blood pressure causes blood flow to the legs to decrease, which in turn causes friction along the vessels to also fall. This causes the vessels to release a protein that hardens and narrows. The problem comes when blood returns to the area; the walls can remain firm, increasing blood pressure.
If this doesn't have you fidgeting yet, be aware that according to Jaume Padilla, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri in Columbia and head of this new study, prescribes that as the solution.
To test the effect fidgeting has on helping blood flow during extended sitting, Dr. Padilla brought in 11, healthy, college age, volunteers and measured their blood flow and arterial health using ultrasound and a standard blood pressure cuff.
Each subject sat at a desk for three hours whereby one leg was kept still with the heel on the floor and the other leg bounced for one minute after being still for four minutes. Researchers took readings from this experiment and compared results of both.
They discovered that blood flow in the stationery leg dropped while blood flow in the fidgeting leg rose compared to the control. Further, they discovered that the arteries in the still leg were less able to adapt to changes in blood pressure after the treatment, indicating that the health effects happen very rapidly.
While the study was very small, and only included young people, it is still an indication that fidgeters may have had the right idea all along.