The Benefits of Fidgeting

If you’re like me, you’re among the millions of American workers who spending hours sitting down at a desk. You’ve probably heard of how sitting in a stationary position for long periods of time can be detrimental to your health even when you’re active outside of the office, and you might have even looked on with curiosity as a coworker tried out one of those newfangled standing desks.

But if you’re like me, standing for hours on end, while healthier, isn’t much more appealing than sitting for hours on end, and at least with sitting I don’t have to stand. This is where fidgeting may be extremely helpful. Yes, you heard that right: fidgeting. That thing you do while sitting at your desk when you tap limbs, wobble, or gently vibrate.

Long-Term Effects

It’s one of the many conclusions drawn from a sweeping study about the long-term effects of a sit-down lifestyle. The study’s authors asked more than 12,000 UK women to provide information on their average daily sitting time and to score the amount they fidgeted on a scale of one to 10, with one being “no fidgeting at all” and 10 being “constant fidgeting”. They also took down information on their personal health habits, such as diets, exercise regimes, and whether they smoked or drank alcohol. When they caught up with the study participants 12 years later, they were intrigued to find that those who fidgeted the most seem to buffet the negative health effects of frequent sitting.

The Fidgeting Buff

Janet Cade, study co-author and professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Leeds, found that women who sat for seven or more hours per day were 30 percent more likely to die from any cause than those who sat for less than five hours, but only if they were “low” fidgeters. The “middle” and “high” fidgeting groups had no greater risk of dying when they sat for the same long periods. She published her findings in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, originally reported by The Guardian.

Fair Warning

However, the authors warn that there is only a suggested link here, since there are many x-factors that could explain the bizarre connection between personal health and fidgeting, but it’s one they feel is worth exploring. “I don’t think we are going to train people to fidget for health reasons,” Cade concedes, “but it’s interesting that these small, active moments could be beneficial.” Gareth Hagger-Johnson, another study co-author, ties fidgeting back to our natural resistance to sitting still, and our need to be active during the day. “…it’s best to avoid sitting still for long periods of time, and even fidgeting may offer enough of a break to make a difference.”

Stand (In the Place Where You Work)

However you do it, whether by fidgeting, choosing a break rhythm that works for you, or just standing and stretching every hour or so, the point is human beings weren’t meant to sit still for long portions of the day. So even if you’re not entirely sold on the idea of a standing desk, get on your feet every hour or so to shake the dust off – your body will thank you for it.

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