November 23, 2017
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Wellness Tip

A Good Reason to Fidget

by Berkeley Wellness  

Don’t sit still: Fidgeting by tapping your feet may help counter the decline in vascular function caused by prolonged sitting, suggests a small study in the American Journal of Physiology—Heart and Circulatory Physiology.

One adverse effect of uninterrupted sitting is the alteration of blood flow in the legs, which may contribute to circulatory and metabolic problems. To test the effect of fidgeting on vascular function, researchers had 11 young adults stay seated at a desk and tap one heel rapidly for a minute, then rest it for four minutes, repeatedly over the course of three hours, while the other foot stayed still. Blood flow in the lower leg of the fidgeting foot was markedly improved, while blood flow in the stationary leg was reduced.

It’s not known if the same effect would occur in older people with poorer circulation, nor what the longer-term effects would be. And, of course, fidgeting is not a substitute for walking or exercise, though research has found that it can boost calorie expenditure slightly.

Fidgeting is what’s known technically as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT—calories you burn throughout the day from small, mostly unconscious forms of movement.

Also see An Antidote to Prolonged Sitting.