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How Fidgeting at Your Desk Could Help Your Heart

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Foot shaking, finger tapping, pen clicking, and seat bouncing may annoy your coworkers, but all that fidgeting may actually be doing good things for your body. Not only do those little movements add up to extra calories burned over time, but fidgeting might even counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting, according to a study published in the American Journal of Physiology.

Whether stuck at a desk job or binge-watching your favorite shows, you probably spend many many hours every day on your butt. All this sitting can have serious consequences on your health, with one study even reporting that being inactive is the riskiest thing you can do, after smoking. One side effect is that bending at the knee and sitting for long periods of time can restrict blood flow—not good for overall heart health. And while there are some fun ways to sneak in exercise during the workday or while watching TV, putting those tips and tricks to good use might be easier said than done. (Learn the 9 Ways to Start Standing More at Work.) Luckily, there's one unconscious movement many people already do that can help: fidgeting.

Eleven healthy volunteers were asked to sit in a chair for three hours, fidgeting periodically with one of their feet. On average, each person jiggled their foot 250 times a minute—that's a lot of fidgeting. The researchers then measured how much the fidgeting increased blood flow in the moving leg and compared it to the blood flow of the leg that was still. When researchers saw the data, they were "quite surprised" at just how effective the fidgeting had been at improving blood flow and preventing any unwanted cardiovascular side effects, Jaume Padilla, Ph.D., an assistant professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri and lead author of the study said in a press release.

"You should attempt to break up sitting time as much as possible by standing or walking," Padilla said. "But if you're stuck in a situation in which walking just isn't an option, fidgeting can be a good alternative."

Moral of this science story? Any movement is better than no movement—even if it annoys the person next you. You're doing it for your health!

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