When people are nervous, they fidget. Same thing happens when they are restless. Normally, when you do either of these, it is considered a bad thing. It is either you are rude or you are just a nervous wreck.
However, according to a recent study, people who fidget may be gaining access to a resource that the rest of humanity doesn’t: immunity from the negative health effects of prolonged sitting.
According to a study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, fidgeting can do what even intense exercise couldn’t. It can help you avoid life-threatening conditions. The following are some of the conditions that sitting can cause.
Negative Health Effects of Prolonged Sitting
Sitting for extended periods messes with your blood flow. Muscles also burn less fat. This increases the risks of fatty acids clogging your heart. Add to these the fact that studies show that elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure are common in people who have a habit of sitting for long periods, and you have reason to worry about your heart.
Diabetes and other pancreas-related complications
When you sit for long, your muscles get less sensitive to insulin. Your pancreas, which produces insulin, interprets this as though it hasn’t done good enough of a job. It therefore produces more insulin.
This is insulin that your body didn’t really need. It was produced merely to satisfy a “manufactured” condition. The imbalance caused by extended sitting sessions then leads to an over-productive pancreas. Complications like diabetes follow soon after.
This was confirmed in a 2011 study. This study found that the effect of sitting was so bad to such an extent that it caused a decline in the muscles’ insulin response after just 24 hours of prolonged sitting.
Colon, endometrial, and breast cancer
Studies have consistently shown a relationship between prolonged sitting and increased risks of cancer. And it isn’t just one cancer. There are different theories that try to explain why this happens.
One of the most common ones is that since sitting causes an overproduction of insulin, this in turn accelerates the rate at which body cells grow. This is what then causes the various types of cancers.
Another theory explains this relationship by focusing on the role that movement plays in the production of natural antioxidants. Generally, people who move more, produce more antioxidants.
Antioxidants play a major role in the body’s defense system. They do this by killing cell-damaging free radicals. Some of these radicals can cause cancer. And by killing them, the antioxidants reduce the risks of cancer.
Since prolonged sitting limits your body’s ability to produce natural antioxidants, it denies it access to a key cancer-preventing agent. It therefore leaves it vulnerable to breast, endometrial, colon and breast cancer.
Reduced brain function
Sitting slows down everything. It slows down the rate at which muscles work. It slows down the rate of blood circulation. It also slows down oxygen intake and the ability of the body to produce mood-enhancing and brain-enhancing chemicals. All this slowing down and reduced brain activity eventually has a negative effect on the brain.
Your back has soft discs. These discs enable it to be flexible enough to handle most of the demands of daily life. To be able to maintain this flexibility, the soft discs between the vertebrae expand and contract. In the process of doing this, they end up absorbing blood that is rich in nutrients. This process ensures that the soft discs remain as flexible as they should be.
However, this is impossible when sitting for prolonged periods. In a prolonged sitting position, these discs get squeezed unevenly. The expansion and contraction that allows them to get nutrient-rich blood is also not possible when in a sitting position. This eventually results in the hardening of collagen around the ligaments and tendons. This leads to back problems. Disk damage can also follow.
Poor circulation and weak bones
When you walk or engage in activities like running, you stimulate the bones in the lower part of your body to grow. These activities help them grow thicker and stronger. Sitting robs these bones of this stimulation, leading to softer bones. This then leaves you vulnerable to medical conditions like osteoporosis.
The reduced blood circulation that happens when you sit for extended periods also affects your legs. It causes fluid to pool way more than the body can tolerate. This then leads to potentially dangerous conditions including Deep Vein Thrombosis ( a condition characterized by the formation of potentially fatal blood clots in the veins) and varicose veins. Swelling in different parts of the legs is also common in people who have a habit of sitting for prolonged periods.
In a study meant to measure the effect that sitting on the probability of dying, researchers followed a large sample of women for over a decade. They measured the risks of mortality in relation to how much time their test subjects spent watching TV. What they found out was shocking. They found out that people who watched TV for up to 8 hours had a 61% greater risk of dying than those who watched for an hour or less.
In a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers ( Gareth Hagger-Johnson, PhD, Alan J. Gow, PhD and others) analyzed data that was collected from over 12000 women. These women were followed for a period of over 12 years.
On analyzing the data that they collected, they noticed that while there was a definite relationship between prolonged sitting and increased risks of death, this relationship wasn’t as obvious in people who were prone to fidgeting.
On further analysis, they arrived to the surprising conclusion that fidgeting totally eliminated the increased risk of death that is normally associated with prolonged sitting. It turns out that fidgets are miraculously immune to an effect that not even exercise couldn’t cure.
However, this only applied to people who were considered middle to high fidgets. People who were prone to slight fidgeting didn’t enjoy this immunity.
Therefore, whether it is nervousness or boredom that causes your fidgeting, please dial it up a notch! Because immunity does not belong to the slight fidgets!