Some people just cannot sit still for extended periods of time. They bounce their legs, play with pens in their hand or rock back and forth in their seat. Normally this is distracting and annoying if you are sharing a beach seat with a leg shaker, in a movie theater. But recent research has shown that bouncing your leg up and down while seated has some remarkable benefits to your health.
Do You Fidget? Here’s Why It’s Actually Good For Your Health
Sitting for long periods of time can create deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in your lower legs. A DVT is a blood clot that lodges in the veins in your lower leg. This can lead to swelling of the ankle and pitting edema around the joint. Basically, blood backs up in the veins and prevents fluid from crossing the barrier into the vein, creating the swelling in the area. The pitting means that when you push into the flesh with your finger, it does not immediately bounce back like normal but leaves an indentation. This usually stems from an underlying cardiovascular issue.
When you bounce your leg up and down, you increase blood flow to the area, preventing your platelets from sticking together and creating a clot. The sheer stress of flowing blood keeps the venous walls smooth and prevents clots and other blockages from occurring. The researchers knew that bouncing your leg would have some cardiovascular benefit, but were surprised to find just how much such a small action could have on sedentary people. They tested twelve subjects and had them bounce only one leg on and off for three hours. They then measured the blood flow through the popliteal artery in the lower leg. They found that the fidgeting leg had an increase in blood flow, while the stationary leg had a decrease in blood flow over the three hour period.
While the researchers only tested one leg, they recommend that people who do work while sitting at a desk for long periods of time bounce both legs every few minutes to help promote blood flow to their lower legs. While this is no substitute for regular walking or other exercise, any movement in the legs of sedentary workers is better than no movement at all. You can also do this while watching your favorite television show, at a sports game or even in a long movie. It is also recommended that on long airline flights, you keep your legs moving and get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour.
Cardiovascular disease describes a large range of conditions concerning the heart, and is one of the leading causes of death in the US. Fidgeting at your desk is not a replacement for a regular exercise program and healthy eating habits, but it can help. Another thing that helps with cardiovascular health is to take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. Get up and move around every hour at your desk for a few minutes during the day, even if you just stand up and walk to the water fountain for a drink or to use the restroom. The body needs to stay moving in order to be healthy, and studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time is bad for your health and can lead to a host of medical conditions.
Something else that has become increasingly popular is to raise your work station high enough that you can stand at it while you work on your computer. Once the domain of eccentrics like Hemingway, standing while working has been proven to eliminate the health risks of prolonged sitting. Some people have even gone as far as mounting their laptops on a treadmill so they could slowly walk while they work.