Researchers from the University of Leeds and the University College London find that fidgeting could be good for your health, reducing the risk of mortality associated with expending too much time seated.

A total of 12,788 women from the UK, aged between 37-78 years, were examined under certain parameters, including: average daily sitting time, overall fidgeting, physical activity, diet, smoking habit and alcohol consumption, according to the study published in the American Journal Of Preventive Medicine.

Fidgeting, the act of moving one or several parts of the body all the time, have always been considered a nervous habit, evidence of concentration problems, boredom, agitation, anxiety, and sometimes it’s linked with hyperthyroidism. Also, fidgeting is an unconscious act.

While at a boring ground breaking ceremony, this man looked interested, but his hands were fidgeting from the boredom. Photo: Mark Spearman/Flickr

On the other hand, it is well known that spending a lot of sitting time brings several consequences to people’s health, like obesity, heart disease and an early death. According to the study, fidgeting might help people that lead a sedentary lifestyle, reducing the risks.

Although the results aren’t conclusive and more research has to be made, “the researchers found that women who sat for seven or more hours per day were 30 percent more likely to have died from any cause than women who sat for five hours or less — but the more sedentary women only appeared to have an increased risk if they also reported they rarely fidgeted”, according to CBS News.

“More detailed and better-validated measures of fidgeting should be identified in other studies to replicate these findings and identity mechanisms, particularly measures that distinguish fidgeting in a seated from standing posture”, the study says.

Changing the way we see fidgeting

Doctors and scientists are starting to turn around the approach towards fidgeting. In 2005, a group of psychologists funded by the Economic and Social Research Council of The UK, found that “children who could move their hands around freely were better at learning than pupils who were not allowed to move. They believe that hand movements and gestures can help children to think, speak and learn”, according to BBC News UK.

Another group of researchers found out that can also make the difference to people suffering from overweight. William Dietz of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta says that “figuring out ways to increase physical activity – not necessarily getting people jogging every day but just building physical activity into a person’s day – are reasonable strategies that have the promise to combat this epidemic of obesity,” according to The Washington Post.

“The amount of this low-grade activity is so substantial that it could, in and of itself, account for obesity quite easily”, said James A. Levine of the Mayo Clinic to the Washington Post, who led the research published on the journal Science.

Although all this studies are small, they provide enough evidence to continue in the search of the benefits of fidgeting, encouraging people to adopt it as an healthy habit.

Source: American Journal Of Preventive Medicine