If you're a fidgeter, you're probably already painfully aware of all the reasons you should stop. Your constant twitching annoys others and makes you look nervous in job interviews and impatient (if not downright weird) in public places.

What you probably don't know is that, despite all that, you probably still shouldn't kick the habit.

Yes, your toe tapping and finger drumming probably drives your colleagues (and your significant other) batty. But science also suggests it might just save your life.

An easier antidote to too much sitting

Wait, what? How could fidgeting have anything to do with life expectancy? The link, according to doctors, comes through the terrible effects of our excessively sedentary lifestyles.

If you haven't already read the many menacing articles detailing the serious consequences of our chair-bound days out there, here's a quick recap for you: sitting for long periods is associated with higher cholesterol and blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease and some cancers, poor posture, varicose veins, softer bones, and a less active brain, among other health troubles. All-in-all, huge studies prove that sitting for hours a day is probably shaving a few years off your life.

Which is obviously scary. So what should you do about it? Some swear by standing or even treadmill desks. Others point to research showing that regularly standing up for a quick stroll is just as effective in combating the damage of too much sitting. But beating the ill effects of sitting might be even simpler than that. All you may need to do is keep on fidgeting.

Fidget your way to a longer life.

That's the conclusion of a small but intriguing new study out of the University of Missouri in Columbia that was covered recently by the New York Times. The research team asked 11 healthy volunteers to sit at a desk for three hours. During that time they were instructed to keep one foot flat on the floor and immobile. With the other leg, they fidgeted.

The researchers then measured the level of hardening of the arteries in the subjects' legs, which is a standard measure of vascular health.What they found shocked them.

Despite the volunteers sitting for less time than most of us do before lunch, and despite the smallness of their top-tapping, foot-jiggling movements, the mobile leg was much less negatively affected by the period of inactivity. Fidgeting, it seems, might just be enough to combat the killer effects of sitting.

What's the practical, day-to-day conclusion? Don't let those who roll their eyes at your fidgeting, keep you still. In fact, if you're stuck sitting for long periods, consciously move more. And if others complain, just tell them all that shuffling and bopping might actually save your life. 

Published on: Sep 29, 2016
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