Sitting at work all day can be hazardous for your waistline and your health. But, a new study may reveal an easy way to keep your blood flowing when at your desk.
Researchers at the University of Missouri released a study in their Health System Magazine which shows “fidgeting while sitting can protect the arteries in the legs and potentially prevent arterial disease.”
The study compared 11 healthy young men and women and their leg vascular function, both before and after sitting for three hours. Next, they asked the sitting participants “to fidget one leg intermittently, tapping one foot for one minute and then resting it for four minutes, while the other leg remained still throughout.”
The participants, on average, ended up moving their feet about 250 times per minute.
The researchers then measured the blood flow of an artery in their lower leg. They found that the leg that was fidgeting and tapping had a noteworthy increase in blood flow while the stationary leg had a reduction.
“You should attempt to break up sitting time as much as possible by standing or walking,” said Jaume Padilla, PhD, an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at MU and lead author of the study. “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.”
But experts caution you should still try to break up your sitting time by standing or walking when possible.
“Fidgeting your legs will get the blood flowing and will burn minimum calories,” says Colleen Davis, an exercise specialist with the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville, Ill. “However, it really has minimum health benefits.”
For optimal health, the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week to keep your heart healthy and the blood flowing.
Mary Ann Majewski, a charge nurse with the cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs, also suggests the following ways to stay active while at work:
- Take a 5-10 minute walk every couple hours
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator when you can
- Park the furthest from your entrance
- Stretch throughout the day to keep the blood pumping throughout your body
While fidgeting may seem like a great alternative to actually being active, “nothing will take the place of exercising,” says Davis.