Embrace your nervous habits: fidgeting can cancel out the bad effects of sitting all day

As Time magazine would have it, sitting is the new smoking. Health gurus say our chairs are killing us. Prolonged periods of sitting raise your risk of lung, bowel and uterus cancer, a form of liver disease, as well as heart disease, diabetes and obesity — and exercise alone cannot counteract these bad effects.

Now a study seems to have the answer: fidgeting.

Researchers at the University of Leeds found that women who sat for long periods had no increased mortality risk compared to those who sat less — as long as they classed themselves as ‘moderate’ or ‘high’ fidgeters.

On the other hand, women who sat for prolonged periods but weren’t self-identified fidgeters seemed to have a 30 per cent higher mortality risk, according to the study.

So while tapping, scratching and leg-jiggling might be annoying for colleagues, it might actually be doing us good.

The data, published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, comes from surveys of 14,000 women carried out for an average of 12 years as part of the UK Women’s Cohort Study.

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.