Are you one of those people who just can’t seem to sit still? We all know somebody who can’t manage to stop moving around, or fidgeting, whenever they’re at dinner, watching TV, or at work. It’s an annoying little tick, but surprisingly enough, it might also be keeping these folks fit. That’s because fidgeting — though not really a strenuous movement by an means — is still movement, and movement requires energy. That means they’re burning calories. Continuously.
We know that on the most basic level, weight loss is as simple as skewing the “calories in, calories out” equation in the favor of “calories out.” You need to burn off more calories, or energy, than you’re taking in on a daily basis. When you don’t, that extra energy is stored by your body as fat. So, if you have a habit of consuming more energy than your body requires, and see very little physical activity during the day, the pounds can start to stack up.
And once they start accumulating, they’re hard to get off. Body fat can even “reprogram” your body to work against you, in a sense. But for fidgeteres — even fidgeters who aren’t getting enough traditional exercise or physical activity, are expelling energy through their little habits. And it may not be much, but in aggregate, it can add up.
According to a post from Fitness Blender, fidgeters may have a leg up on the rest of us, in terms of fitness, strictly because they’re constantly shuffling around in some shape or form. “Studies have shown that the habit of extra little movements is a common tendency or characteristic of lean people. People who are obese tend to not only lack any regular exercise regimens, but also do significantly less moving as a whole,” the post reads. “Lean individuals have notably busier bodies; standing more often, pacing, shifting bodyweight, tapping feet, drumming fingers, gesturing with arms while speaking, and repositioning their bodies, even while seated.”
How many calories are we talking about, exactly? The average fidgeter may burn between 300 and 350 calories per day through the extra movement. That can mean burning almost 110,000 extra calories annually, which amounts to more than 31 pounds of body fat.
The important thing to note here is that this isn’t a realistic way to look at weight loss. If you don’t fidget, you shouldn’t start — it’s a habit that can seriously be irritating to those around you. But if you do, just know that you may have a built-in advantage by skimming some extra calories off during your daily routines.
With that said, fidgeters shouldn’t feel any better about eating more snacks from Little Debbie or skipping a workout.
As Fitness Blender pointed out, there are studies that actually back this up. The New York Times covered one such study when it was released back in 2005, which was conducted by researchers from Mayo Clinic and published in the journal Science. That study showed that there was a difference in body composition between fidgeters and non-fidgeters, leading researchers to speculate that there are some intriguing applications for squirming as a part of a healthy lifestyle.
According to the study’s lead researcher, Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and nutritionist Dr. James Levine, what the discussion really revolves around is how efficiently our bodies can deal with energy. “People with obesity are tremendously efficient,” he told the New York Times. “Any opportunity not to waste energy, they take. If you think about it that way, it all makes sense. As soon as they have an opportunity to sit down and not waste those calories, they do.”
Fidgeters, on the other hand, seemingly can’t wait for the next opportunity to expel energy, which is why they can’t sit still. But again, fidgeting isn’t really a healthy or unhealthy habit, it’s merely something some people do. If you’re a fidgeter, you may want to find ways to expend some energy other than air drumming, or shaking your leg. If you find yourself moving around, take a short walk, or climb some stairs.
And for non-fidgeters, this is even more important. By sitting still, you’re missing out on some valuable calorie-cutting — so make sure you’re making up for it by getting some activity in. There are opportunities to burn calories everywhere you look.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger