This nervous habit could help reduce heart disease, scientists say

Click to play video: 'Researchers say this nervous habit could help reduce cardiovascular disease' Researchers say this nervous habit could help reduce cardiovascular disease
You might not realize that one of your nervous habits might actually be good for you. Researchers at the University of Missouri studied adults who fidget. The study was recently published in the American Journal of Physiology – Aug 8, 2016

You’re getting fidgety on a long plane ride, you’re tapping your foot nervously right before a big presentation or you’re moving around in your seat after a long day at work. New research suggests your nervous habits might be good for your heart health.

While sitting for long periods of time doesn’t bode well for the body, University of Missouri scientists say that fidgeting could stop sitting disease in its tracks, getting the blood flowing and protecting the arteries.

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

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

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: 4 ways to combat sitting disease

For his study, Padilla and his team worked with 11 young and healthy volunteers to look at the blood flow in their legs after three hours of sitting.

Sitting for long periods of time, say, in front of the computer or while travelling, restricts blood flow to the legs, which could contribute to cardiovascular disease.

In the study, the participants were tasked with fidgeting one leg intermittently, tapping one foot for a minute, then resting it for four minutes, while the other leg stayed still.

“What we found as an average is people perform 250 taps per minute and that resulted in an increase in blood flow during the actual fidgeting,” Padilla said.

READ MORE: Why too much sitting time increases risk of disease even if you exercise

The fidgeting leg had “significant increase” in blood flow while the leg that stayed still had a reduction.

Only one leg was fidgeting but the researchers say tapping both legs could double up on the benefits.

The study is small, and it’s too early to say that fidgeting has a protective role in heart health. You should stick to walking and running for exercise, they say.

Story continues below advertisement

Canadian research has warned that sitting for long periods of time increases risk of disease and death.

“What we found was that sitting time is linked to higher risk of death, higher risk of heart disease, higher risk of cancer, cancer-related deaths, heart disease-related deaths and diabetes,” Dr. David Atler told Global News.

READ MORE: Doctor calls on Canadians to ditch the shortcuts, add time on their feet

Atler suggests setting reminders on your phone or computer that’ll push you to get out of your seat or off the couch.

“Put a reminder every 45 minutes, or maybe hour, to kind of stand up for a few minutes, just stretch, just walk around, or even during commercials. Just use any opportunity to interrupt these long periods of sitting,” he suggested.

Padilla’s full findings were published in the American Journal of Physiology.

Sponsored content