Your high-strung, fidgety behavior may sometimes annoy others but, for you, there may be a host of health benefits. Not only do fidgeters burn hundreds more calories throughout the day than people who aren’t as restless, researchers say those of us who fidget may live longer. Studies are showing that fidgety behaviors—tapping your fingers or toes, wiggling or rocking in your seat, pacing back and forth, bouncing your knees, and shifting from one foot to another—can actually improve long-term heart health and longevity.

A small study published by researchers at the Universities of Missouri and Texas-Arlington in the American Journal of Physiology found that people who routinely make small, frequent movements with their arms, hand, legs, or feet throughout the day may be strengthening their hearts by keeping their blood flow going strong while sitting. Since sitting still for extended periods of time can make you sick and possibly knock years off your life, this is good news for the nervous and restless among us.

In this study, the researchers looked at exactly how fidgeting helps the heart. They found that moving one leg every four minutes increased blood flow in the arteries of that leg, while keeping the other leg perfectly still decreased blood flow to that leg. They also found that blood vessels in the fidgeting leg responded better to changes in blood pressure than those in the still leg. Although neither of these improvements last beyond the study period, the researchers point out that what you routinely do (and don’t do) over time helps determine your long-term health status. In other words, those who fidget gain benefit from additional physical activity over time..

You probably can’t train yourself to become a fidget any more than someone who fidgets can stop. But if you’re already a fidgeter, you (and others) can start to view it as a positive trait, rather than behavior often considered rude and distracting. And if you’re not a fidgeter, your take-away—especially if you don’t get enough routine physical exercise—is to get up and move more often throughout each day, perhaps by taking short, frequent breaks to walk around your desk or down the hall, and using your lunch hour to get outside and pound the pavement.

by, Susan McQuillan
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Fidgeting Has Benefits

© Susan McQuillan