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Stop atherosclerosis through fidgeting
You’re worried about heart disease……
So you’re watching what you eat, trying to keep cholesterol levels out of the red and you walk the dog every night.
The rest of the time, you sit.
A day in the life
Your day starts with a flurry of activity as you get yourself together and then leave the house. It’s a 50 minute SIT, to get to work. When you arrive, you grab a coffee and then you go to SIT at your desk, where you punch away at your keyboard, chat on the phone and shuffle papers. The sitting is interrupted – when you NEED coffee and/or a bathroom break. Eight hours later, you hop back into the car and SIT in traffic, en route to………….. YOUR LIFE.
Maybe it’s a spot of grocery shopping, picking up the kids, a vigorous workout or dinner with friends.
You’re on your feet for an hour or two.
And then, it’s back to SITTING – this time in front of the TV or the home PC. SITTING ! It’s an integral part of modern living.
Now when you’re sitting, you can be quite busy. Your arms are reaching, grabbing, handling papers and things, but your LEGS are NOT so busy.
Unless……………. you’re a fidgetor.
Which is something society generally frowns upon.
But, this is precisely what you want to be, if you want to live long and prosper i.e. avoid heart disease.
This is what a team of researchers from the University of Missouri found, when they allowed one leg to fidget, while the other was FORCED to be sedentary.
Leg work in the lab
The legs they tested, belonged to 11 young active healthy students, 7 guys and 4 girls.
On test day, the legs were all
- well rested (they had not exercised for 24 hours)
- satiated (they had enjoyed a meal 2 hours before) and
- caffeine free (participants were instructed to avoid caffeine for 12 hours)
When they arrived at the lab….
The legs were given an opportunity to lounge on a bed (this puts them in a horizontal position), whilst their vital signs were checked. The health check included
- The blood pressure in the brachial artery
- The diameter of the popliteal artery
- How much blood was moving through the popliteal artery
Next, the level of endothelial functioning within the popliteal artery, was assessed, by temporarily cutting off the blood flow and watching how it responded to this unpleasant situation, a test known as flow mediated dilation (FMD).
Having gotten a once over, the legs were then popped on the floor, and the circumference of each ankle, was recorded.
Then the sitting session (3 hours) began………
The sitting session
Each leg experienced a slightly different SITTING experience.
One leg was encouraged to FIDGET for 1 minute and then rest for 4 minutes. While the other was effectively put in a straight jacket. Seriously, a lab assistant kept a beady eye on the leg, ensuring it NEVER moved, PERIOD.
So how do you make a leg, fidget on command ?
You tap your heel and bounce the knee at a pace that works for you.
Leg vital signs were taken on each leg, on the hour, every hour, for the three hours and then……….
Both legs were “immobilized”.
The final leg counts
It was quite a thing, the legs had to be moved back onto the bed, for the final round of testing. But, the leg, couldn’t get from the chair to the bed unassisted, because this would impact blood flow. So the lab assistants had MOVE the legs across.
Aren’t you glad you weren’t the hired help !
So what happened ?
Sitting stops blood flow
No matter what you do. Eish !
But, on the positive side, fidgeting helps keep the blood flowing, particularly while you’re fidgeting. The problem is, the effect doesn’t last very long, around 60 seconds, so you need to keep doing it.
But at the end of three hours, there are REAL benefits…..
- The flow mediated dilation test, showed, the endothelial cells in the blood vessels were working significantly better, in the fidgeting leg.
- Plus the fidgeting legs, were skinnier, implying that there had been less blood pooling.
And this is a GOOD THING !
Endothelial dysfunction is TROUBLE
These little guys keep your pipes open. When they DYSFUNCTION, you’re at risk of atherosclerosis aka. heart disease. Since, your leg blood vessels, are among the blood vessels most at risk of atherosclerosis, you don’t want these endothelial cells dysfunctional.
So, if you’re going to BE SITTING for any length of time – FIDGET !
Tiny muscle contractions are better than NO, muscle contractions. Increasing the blood flow to your toes, even just a little, can mitigate some of the health hazards of being SEDENTARY.
NOTE : To really get the blood flowing, make a point of standing up, at regular intervals i.e. strut your STUFF (Stand up for Fitness)
A special non-stick layer, known as the glycocalyx, prevents things from sticking to the sides of blood vessels. When it’s not there, atherosclerosis happens.
If you’re sporting a few extra pounds, the best health move might not be another yo-yo diet, rather embark on a programme to fix those weak legs.
Put you left foot forward, put your left foot back …… cross a few wires and get your brain oxygenated by doing the brain shuffle during study sessions