Are you one of those people who struggles with keeping still when standing, sitting, or even waiting anywhere for more than 5 minutes? If you are prone to fidgeting--nervously playing with your hair, tapping your toes, bouncing your leg, and more--then you're in luck. According to a recent New York Times article, fidgeting, although often viewed as an annoying habit by those around us, has actually been proven to have positive health effects.
Sitting, in the most basic of its meanings, is definitely a byproduct of modern life, and an activity during which our legs typically don't move. Studies have shown that the average person actually spends between 8 and 10 hours sitting each day alone. Health consequences that stem from such a sedentary lifestyle are clear, needless to say. People are at risk for increased weight gain, as well as increased risk of long-term health conditions like diabetes due to physical inactivity.
What lack of movement impacts the most, however, is actually our ability to circulate blood effectively. When we remain seated for long periods of time, we ultimately allow our arteries to stiffen, ultimately increasing our risk of raising blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
Although the negative effects of being sedentary for long periods of time can be countered by simply standing up and moving around, there are situations -- and a surprisingly large number, actually -- in which we're unable to do so. In such cases, fidgeting helps.
In a new study recently published in the American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology, Dr. Jaume Padilla, assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri in Columbia, found that fidgeting in the lower body was enough to stimulate and elevate blood levels in the legs.
In order to quantify the study, researchers measured the blood pressure in a stationary leg and one in a fidgeting one over a certain period of time. Surprisingly, they found that the effects of fidgeting on blood flow and arterial function were much more significant than anticipated.
Ultimately, if you find yourself getting the jitters, don't feel obligated to stop shaking your leg. Chances are that the jolting around will do your body much more good than you think in the long run. Not only that, but according to other research, fidgeting burns on average an extra 350 calories a day, which can lead fidgeters to weigh less than those who don't fidget. And for many of us, that's a very good thing.