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Constantly fidgeting? This is why it's a good thing

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Penelope Travers
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Were you always told by school teachers to “please sit still!”? Constantly ticked off by colleagues for tapping your pen or swinging your leg?

Well you can now turn around and tell them they were wrong all along, because a new study has revealed that far from being annoying, fidgeting could actually be good for you.

Looking at the habits of 12,000 UK women, it showed that those who claimed to fidget were more protected against the effects of being still for too long.

The women, aged 37 to 78, were also asked about their diets, exercise regimes and how much alcohol they drank and if they smoked. They were first approached in 1999 and 2002 and were followed up 12 years later.

They were then divided into three groups, depending on their level of fidgeting (low, medium and high). Researchers found that low fidgeters who sat for seven or more hours a day were 30% more likely to had died from any cause than those who sat for five hours or less.

office desk

The study of 12,000 UK women found that fidgeting reduced the bad effects of sitting still

Meanwhile, those who were medium to high fidgeters had no greater risk of dying when they sat for long periods.

Janet Cade, the professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Leeds who led the study, wrote in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, “It might be a good thing to fidget. I don’t think we are going to train people to fidget for health reasons, but it’s interesting that these small, active movements could be beneficial.” 

However, she pointed out that the results are at this stage only suggestive, as women might have fidgeted more or less than they thought.

“While further research is needed, the findings raise questions about whether the negative associations with fidgeting, such as rudeness or lack of concentration, should persist if such simple movements are beneficial,” she added.

woman desk

"Fidgeting may offer enough of a break to make a difference"

“While further research is needed, the findings raise questions about whether the negative associations with fidgeting, such as rudeness or lack of concentration, should persist if such simple movements are beneficial,” she added.

The harmful effects of sitting for too long - even if you're active outside of work - have been well documented, with studies finding it can increase your risk of diabetes, cardiovascular events, death caused by cardiovascular events and death from any cause.  

It's estimated that many adults in the UK spend more than seven hours a day sitting down, and that the amount increases with age to 10 hours or more.

This prompted the government to issue new guidelines in 2011, recommending breaking up long periods of time with "shorter bouts of activity for just one to two minutes" and getting up every 30 minutes.

woman desk

Those yoga classes came in handy!

Gareth Hagger-Johnson, co-author of the study, added, “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.”

So what are you waiting for? Get fidgeting.

Images: Thinkstock

 

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Penelope Travers

Penny Travers is a freelance writer covering anything from beauty and fashion to travel and lifestyle. She has a penchant for cheese, karaoke and shoes. Not necessarily in that order.

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