Sitting for more than seven hours a day is linked to a 30 percent higher risk of death, but that association disappears among the in-place movers and shakers. Christopher Intagliata reports
It's a rule that's drilled into us from an early age: "Stop fidgeting." We're even hounded about it as adults. <<"Stop fidgeting. Stop fidgeting. Stop fidgeting.>> But that instruction may be misguided. Because small movements of your hands and feet may actually help counteract the negative health effects of our sedentary lifestyle. In other words, the notion that “sitting is the new smoking” may not apply if you fidget.
Researchers in the U.K. tracked nearly 13,000 women for 12 years. The women were quizzed about their diets, smoking and drinking habits, and time spent exercising versus sitting. They were also asked a slightly unusual question for this type of study: "On a scale from 1 to 10 please indicate how much of your time you spend fidgeting." The reason? "My husband is a big fidgeter and I felt that the questions on physical activity maybe weren't getting at all of the elements of energy expenditure through movement." Janet Cade, a nutritional epidemiologist at the University of Leeds.
She and her colleagues found that sitting for seven plus hours a day correlated to a 30 percent higher risk of death—regardless of how active study subjects were at other times. But that association disappeared among the fidgeters. Fidgeting did not appear to lower the body-mass index, a loose measure of obesity. But Cade says it might work by improving metabolism. "We know that people who sit for a long time have abnormal glucose metabolism for example, and an increased risk of metabolic syndrome. So fidgeting might just be improving those outcomes." The finding is in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. [Gareth Hagger-Johnson et al, Sitting Time, Fidgeting, and All-Cause Mortality in the U.K. Women’s Cohort Study]
Of course you can't really train people to fidget more. "But if you are sitting for a long period of time any movement might be good. So you know, try and think about shifting your position, or get up and stretch. Or pace whilst you're on the phone. Maybe, you know, get a standing desk." And of course, if anyone tells you to stop fidgeting, you just tell them that maybe they should start.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]