You would have known that sitting for extended periods of time is detrimental to your health. But, you can’t help it, if you’re traveling or your job requires such action.
Take heart! A new study by the researchers of The University of Missouri says that, fidgeting while sitting can protect the arteries in legs and potentially help prevent arterial diseases.
The impact of sitting on vascular health is a rising concern. If you sit for six straight hours, your vascular function will be impaired. Think about the amount of impact if you continue to sit on a daily basis.
Prolonged sitting can cause obesity and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes high blood sugar, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels and excess body fat around the waist. The risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer also increases with too much sitting.
When people sit, relaxed muscles do not contract efficiently to supply blood to the heart. Blood can pool in the legs and can affect the ability of blood vessels to expand from increased blood flow.
Dr. James Levine author of the book Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You and What You Can Do About It writes in his book, “at the molecular level your body was designed to be active and on the move all day long. When you stop moving for extended periods of time, it’s like telling your body to shut down and prepare for death.”
Too much sitting can take years off your life. A study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine says that each hour spent watching television after the age of 25 reduces your life expectancy by nearly 22 minutes. That’s it for the scary details.
Now let us see what you can do about it to minimize the damage?
The scientists wanted to see whether a small amount of leg fidgeting could prevent a decline in leg vascular function caused by prolonged sitting. The researchers expected that fidgeting could increase blood flow to the lower limbs.
But they were surprised to find that fidgeting was sufficient to prevent arterial dysfunction. The participants sat for three long hours. They fidgeted one leg while the other leg was not moved. They tapped one foot for a minute and rested for 4 minutes.
The researchers measured the blood flow to the artery in the lower leg. They found the fidgeting leg had increased blood flow while the other leg has reduced blood flow. The scientists are quick to warn that fidgeting is not a substitute for walking and exercise.
However, when you are stuck in places where you can’t move and have to sit for long, then tap your feet for proper arterial function.
You can even take little 5 minutes’ walks to reverse the adverse effect of prolonged sitting. Studies say that the role of the main artery in the legs gets impaired by 50% after one hour of continued sitting. But if you take small brisk walks the arterial function stays the same and will not be affected.
Take home message
To stay on the safe boat, if you have to sit for extended periods of time tap your legs and take short brisk walks to remain healthy and active.