The annoying habit that prevents stroke

Remember when you were a kid and your mom told you to stop fidgeting? It turns out that wasn’t great advice. Because fidgeting can save your life….

Just imagine you’re sitting at your computer catching up on emails, paying bills, scanning Facebook, when all of sudden the left side of your face and arm feel numb. You try talking and you realize your speech is slurred.

You’re having a stroke. It could be deadly…

And it could have been prevented by fidgeting more often.

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that frequent fidgeting can keep your leg veins healthy during those periods of prolonged sitting we’re all guilty of nowadays.

In the study, researchers asked healthy men and women to sit for three hours. During that time, they were told to fidget one leg intermittently by tapping their foot for one minute and then resting it for four minutes. Their other leg remained still for the entire three hours.

After the time was up, researchers compared the blood flow in each leg. Unsurprisingly, the leg that was moving on and off throughout the three-hour period had significantly better blood flow than the still leg. Better blood flow means better vein and artery health. And better vein and artery health means there’s less chance you’ll suffer from a deadly stroke or heart attack.

“We wanted to know whether a small amount of leg fidgeting could prevent a decline in leg vascular function caused by prolonged sitting. While we expected fidgeting to increase blood flow to the lower limbs, we were quite surprised to find this would be sufficient to prevent a decline in arterial function,” said the study’s lead author Jaume Padilla, Ph.D.

Now, you don’t want to let your artery and vein health slip away from you, which can happen quickly regardless of your health or age. In fact, in one study, three hours of sitting significantly decreased leg artery function in healthy children. So just imagine what it’s doing to you if your arteries have a few more miles under their belt… setting you up for a deadly stroke or heart attack, that’s what.

Next time you’re sitting at your computer, binge-watching your favorite TV show or traveling, make sure to fidget as much as you can. Tap your foot, wiggle your toes, raise and lower your heels, tighten and release your calf muscles — any movement that will keep the blood flowing. Your mom won’t mind… especially if it’s going to save your life.

You can also take other precautions to keep your leg veins and arteries healthy, like:

  • Standing and walking every two to three hours. Last year, another study from the University of Missouri-Columbia showed that a short ten-minute walk is enough to restore vascular function after sitting for six hours.
  • Taking a turmeric curcumin supplement. A 2012 study showed that taking a daily curcumin supplement improved blood vessel function as much as an hour of exercise.
  • Exercise. When you’re not stuck behind a desk or sprawled out in front of the T.V., make sure to get your daily exercise. A study published earlier this year showed that one hour of moderate exercise per day is enough to counteract the negative health effects of prolonged sitting.
  • Drink plenty of the the superjuice that keeps your arteries loose.

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  1. Morishima, et al. “Prolonged sitting-induced leg endothelial dysfunction is prevented by fidgeting.” American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 2016; 311 (1): H177.
  2. M. McManus, et al. “Impact of prolonged sitting on vascular function in young girls.” Experimental Physiology, Nov 2015; 100 (11): 1379-1387.
  3. M. Restaino, et al. “Impact of prolonged sitting on lower and upper limb micro- and macrovascular dilator function.” Experimental Physiology, 2015; 100 (7): 829.
  4. Akazawa, et al. “Curcumin ingestion and exercise training improve vascular endothelial function in postmenopausal women.” Nutrition Research, Oct 2012;32 (10):795-9.
  5. Ekelund, et al. “Does physical activity attenuate, or even eliminate, the detrimental association of sitting time with mortality? A harmonised meta-analysis of data from more than 1 million men and women.” The Lancet, 2016.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and