Can fidgeting help you stay fit? A recent study seems to say “yes.” Any kind of motion or activity, including fidgeting, can help offset the effects of being too sedentary, according to cardiologists at UT Southwestern Medical Center.
The American Heart Association says that 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise three to four times a week can help improve your cardiovascular health.
Based on the UT Southwestern study, doctors may one day also set guidelines to reduce time spent in sedentary activities like working at a desk, as well as guidelines encouraging fidgeting and other types of movement.
The UT Southwestern researchers used data on 2,223 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to study the association between overall fitness levels, daily exercise and sedentary time.
The researchers defined sedentary behavior as anything that requires low energy use such as sitting, driving or watching television.
Participants in the study were all between the ages of 12 and 49, with no history of heart disease, asthma or stroke. Fitness was measured using a treadmill test with the results adjusted for gender, age and body mass index (BMI).
Analysis showed a correlation between sedentary behavior and cardiorespiratory fitness. The research team concluded that being sedentary for four hours can harm your health to the same degree that 40 minutes of exercise can improve your health.
Dr. Jarett Berry, assistant professor of Internal Medicine and Clinical Science, and senior author of the study said, "Our data suggest that sedentary behavior may increase risk through an impact on lower fitness levels, and that avoiding sedentary behavior throughout the day may represent an important companion strategy to improve fitness and health, outside of regular exercise activity."
The team also noted that any movement, including fidgeting, was better than being completely sedentary.
For people sitting for long periods at a desk, they recommend frequent changes in position and breaks to get up and stretch. They also suggest pacing while on the phone, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking during lunch to improve overall activity levels.
Other suggested ways to add movement into the work day include replacing a standard desk chair with a fitness ball, hosting “walking meetings,” and using a pedometer or other activity tracker to help monitor daily steps and set goals to increase daily activity.
Science Daily. Sitting too much, not just lack of exercise, is detrimental to cardiovascular health. Web. July 8, 2014.
American Heart Association. New Diet, Exercise Guideline for Heart Health. Go Red for Women Editors. Web. July 8, 2014.
Reviewed July 9, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith