Keep tapping those feet and twirling those pencils. According to a study released by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, people who fidget live longer than people who don’t.
The study, released today, examined the effect that fidgeting has on the connection between sitting and mortality. The negative effects of sitting for long periods of time have been studied extensively but are still not entirely understood. Using data from the U.K. Women’s Cohort Study, researchers discovered that sitting for more than seven hours increases mortality risk by 30 percent. To study the effects of fidgeting on mortality for people who sit for seven or more hours a day (most people with office jobs), the researchers split fidgeting behavior into three groups: “low” frequency fidgeters, “moderate” frequency fidgeters, and “high” frequency fidgeters.
What researchers found is that fidgeting completely eliminates this increased mortality risk. And not just maniacal fidgeting either. Even people who fidgeted at a moderate frequency were not at an increased risk of mortality. According to Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson, co-lead author of the study, “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.”
There are, of course, imperfections with this study. It is unclear what exactly differentiates a “low” frequency fidgeter from a “moderate” frequency fidgeter, which, according to the study, makes all the difference. It was also not made clear why “moderate” and “high” frequency fidgeters were at an equally decreased risk of mortality. Future studies are sure to examine what kind of fidgeting is effective, the effects of fidgeting on factors other than mortality, and the effects of fidgeting for people who sit for more than and less than seven hours per day.
The takeaway from all of this is simple: when given the option, don’t sit for extended periods of time. Though fidgeting may appear to be a solution, there is not yet a link established between fidgeting and its effects on factors other than mortality, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer – two things linked to repeated periods of extended sitting. So if you’re stuck at a desk all day, fidget when you can, or even better, stand up and move. It might just save your life.