Fidgeting Has A Surprising Health Benefit

Tap on, tappers!

09/24/2015 07:01 am ET | Updated Sep 25, 2015
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Your parents may have said fidgeting is rude, but it could also be saving your life, according to new research.

A study published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests that shifting, shaking and moving in your seat may help reduce the connection between sitting and mortality. Long periods of sitting each day, a mainstay of office life, are associated with several adverse health effects, including earlier death.  

"Our results support the suggestion that 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," co-lead author Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson of University College London said in a statement.

This is a particular striking finding, given that previous research has found that not even exercise can compensate for the effects of sitting

Using data from the U.K. Women's Cohort Study, which includes information from thousands of women on their lifestyle habits, researchers sorted participants into three groups: "low," "middle" and "high" frequency fidgeters. Researchers found that sitting for long periods of time (defined as 7 hours or more) was associated with a 30 percent rise in mortality risk only for those who fidgeted at a low frequency. There was no additional mortality risk for middle and high frequency fidgeters, they found.

In other words, those fidgety movements could counteract the nasty health effects of sitting around all day. And that's great news for the twitchiest among us. 

But before you start tapping a pencil and crossing and uncrossing your legs, a couple caveats: The study only looked at the impact on mortality. Sitting too much is associated with a number of other health complaints, from increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease to some types of cancers. What's more, the researchers themselves suggested that further study with more defined and controlled fidgeting metrics is needed to confirm the findings. 

In the meantime, experts recommend taking frequent breaks -- a few minutes every hour during your workday is a good start -- to help lower blood sugar, reduce cholesterol buildup and even help you lose weight. 

So keep calm, and fidget, walk, stand, dance and thrive on. 

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