- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 4, 2016

Some promising news for the nation’s office workers who worry that sitting at a desk for hours is bad for their health. Medical researchers have warned that long periods of stationary work reduces blood flow to the legs and contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease. There could be a solution, however: “protective” fidgeting.

New research from the University of Missouri reveals that “fidgeting while sitting can protect the arteries in legs and potentially help prevent arterial disease,” the campus announced Thursday.

“Many of us sit for hours at a time, whether it’s binge watching our favorite TV show or working at a computer,” said lead author Jaume Padilla, an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the university.

“We wanted to know whether a small amount of leg fidgeting could prevent a decline in leg vascular function caused by prolonged sitting. 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,” he continued.

In a complex study, the researchers compared the leg vascular function of healthy men and women before and after three hours of sitting. The subjects were asked to fidget one leg intermittently, then tap one foot for one minute and rest. On average, the participants moved their foot 250 times per minute.

The researchers then measured the blood flow of the popliteal — an artery in the lower leg — and found that the fidgeting leg had a significant increase in blood flow, while the stationary leg experienced a reduction in blood flow. Fidgeting’s “protective role” had not been established prior to the study.

The researchers caution that fidgeting is not a substitute for walking and exercise, however. But it helps.

“You should attempt to break up sitting time as much as possible by standing or walking,” Mr. Padilla said. “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.”

The study, “Prolonged Sitting-induced Leg Endothelial Dysfunction is Prevented by Fidgeting,” was published by the American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology, an academic journal. Find a video here

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