Continuously fidgeting during work – pencil rapping and toe tapping – might be annoying, but according to a new research at the University of Leeds, UK, such activities might actually be good for your health.

According to their findings, women who fidgeted heavily while sitting around for about five to six hours daily had a significantly lower mortality risk, as compared to those who sat perfectly still.

Changing Concepts About Fidgeting: Collecting Data

According to previous studies, long hours of sedentary activities, such as watching television or sitting on the computer are significantly associated with poor health outcomes. This is true even for those who exercise regularly, demonstrating that sedentary lifestyles and physical regimes are independent of each other.

Janet Cade of the University of Leeds, UK, along with her colleagues studied survey data (1992 and 2002) collected from more than 12,000 middle-aged women. The information included lifestyle habits, time spent sitting and fidgeting, rate of exercise and their general dietary patterns.

Approximately 42 percent of the women sat for less than four hours a day, 32 percent remained sedentary for five to six hours daily and 26 percent spent up to 17 hours a day sitting down. Overall, 54 percent reported being not very fidgety, 20 percent claimed they fidgeted on occasion, and 27 percent said they had strong impulses to fidget most of the time.

Analyzing The Results

Over a period of about 12 years, the women who fidgeted less and remained sedentary for at least seven hours daily had a 30 percent increased risk of mortality as compared to those who sat for five hours a day or less.

However, among the women who fidgeting highly, those who sat for five to six hours a day had a 33 percent reduced risk of mortality as compared to those who sat still for the same period of time.

“If you have to remain seated for long periods of time, even minor movements like fidgeting could be helpful”, explained Cade.

Moreover, those who reported to fidget habitually got more exercise and better sleep as compared to others. Interestingly, they seemed less inclined towards eating vegetables and fruits, and were more prone to smoking and drinking.

Some Shortfalls

One limitation of the study is its dependence on women to accurately self-report how much they fidgeted and sat in a day. Also, the women’s weight was not considered.

Despite taking exercise into consideration, the data obtained does not completely demonstrate whether the women constantly moved around in their daily lives, notes Robert Newton, Jr., an exercise expert at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Deriving A Conclusion

How often and vigorously do people need to fidget for it to be potentially beneficial isn’t currently established, however some aspects of its usefulness can be inferred.

Fidgetiness might be used a marker to identify someone who is programmed to move around a lot, stated Dr. James Levine, a researcher at Arizona State University and the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“Fidgeting itself is basically an expression of the brain sending out signals to get you moving”, explained Levine. “If you can get out and walk around, you do that; however, if you are stuck behind a desk with work, then the body simply makes all the little movements it can.”

The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.