Fidgeting while sitting down is often deemed a negative behavior that is attributed to a lack of concentration or disrespect. A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Leeds and UCL has found that fidgeting around while sitting for long periods of time can ward off the negative health consequences tied to a sedentary lifestyle.

"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," said Professor Janet Cade, from the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds, in a statement.

Cade and her colleagues analyzed data using the University of Leeds’ UK Women’s Cohort Study. Considered one of the largest cohort studies of diet and health for women in the UK, the University of Leeds’ UK Women’s Cohort Study documents the eating habits of over 35,000 women between the ages of 35 and 69. Over 14,000 women ended up completing a follow-up survey that gauged health behaviors, chronic disease, physical activity, and fidgeting.

Results showed no increased risk for mortality due to longer sitting times among women who considered themselves as moderately or very fidgety. However, there was an increased risk for mortality among women who reported sitting for longer periods of time and considered themselves very occasional fidgeters. There have been a number of recent studies that suggest a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy, regardless of how active the person is outside of work. This is the first to suggest fidgeting can modify this link between sitting and mortality.

"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," said Dr. Gareth Hagger-Johnson from UCL.

Sedentary lifestyle is frequently tied to various health complications, including anxiety, depression, muscle movement, brain activity, and premature death. Although standing instead of sitting has been recommended by health care professionals in the past, new research suggests standing in place for long periods of time is just as unhealthy as sitting. Instead of investing in a standup desk, current recommendations suggest taking a five-minute walk each hour to promote circulation.

Source: Hagger-Johnson G, Cade J, et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2015.