Have you ever been told that you need to stop fidgeting so much? While this state feels like the universal adage of parents and teachers alike, recent research suggests that fidgeting is good for you. That's right: According to a study out of the University of Missouri, it's possible that all of your seemingly aimless fidgeting may actually be benefiting your health. Specifically, researchers for the study explored whether or not fidgeting while sitting can protect the arteries in your legs, which potentially prevents arterial disease — and signs point to yes.
The study currently appears in the American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology, and its results are really intriguing. As we all know, it's easy to spend a long time sitting in one place, whether it's because we're at our desks, sitting in bed, or lounging around on the couch. This habit is what spurred the research study; explains lead research Jaume Padilla, Ph.D,who is an assistant professor at the University of Missouri in the department of exercise and nutrition, in a press release, "Many of us sit for hours at a time. ... We wanted to know whether a small amount of leg fidgeting could prevent a decline in leg vascular function caused by prolonged sitting." Increased blood flow is an important aspect of vascular health, so the query here makes a lot of sense.
So, what did the researchers discover about the specific benefits of fidgeting? Here's how it all breaks down:
To begin the study, researchers looked at the leg vascular function of 11 healthy men and women both before and after three hours of sitting. While participants were seated, researchers asked them to tap one foot for one minute and then rest it for four minutes, while the other leg stayed still (so, basically your pretty standard fidgeting). From there, the researchers measured the blood flow of an artery in the participants' lower legs. They discovered, as they had anticipated, that the fidgeting leg had a significant increase in blood flow. The stationary leg, on the other hand, experienced a reduction in blood flow.
Even researchers were pleasantly surprised with the results of the study: Explained Padilla, "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." During the course of the study, participants only fidgeted one leg, though researchers assume that fidgeting both legs would actually have even better results.
Even when you can't get up to take a walk or engage in exercise, fidgeting can help your body because it gets you moving and gets your blood pumping. However, Padilla warns that people should not use fidgeting in place of actual walking. As he puts it, "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 while you're at it, why not try one of these ways to work out that don't actually feel like you're working out? It's all for the good in the end!