New research suggests that simply fidgeting around could counter some of the effects of sitting down for too long.

Image via Brainscape.

Sitting is deceptively dangerous – sitting for prolonged periods of time greatly increases the risk of heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer, and this risk is not negated even by regular exercising. A correlation between occupational sitting specifically and higher body mass index has also been demonstrated, but the causality has not been established yet. Now, in a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, a team of researchers, UCL and Leeds researchers present one of the body’s mechanisms of defense against these negative effects: fidgeting around.

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They found an increased risk in people who don’t consider themselves fidgeters, compared to those who moderately or actively fidget. Study co-lead author Professor Janet Cade, from the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds said:

“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 for our health.”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that sitting suddenly became OK – but the risks are somewhat reduced. The study was based on 35,000 women aged 35 to 69 who are living in the UK, who completed a questionnaire for a previous study. 14,000 replies were taken into consideration for this study.

Study co-lead author Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson from UCL, who conducted the data analysis, said:

“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.