I’ve always been a fidgetor. In class, you can often find me mindlessly playing with my pencil or pen. While studying, I’m often catching–and trying to stop– myself from biting my nails. When I’m chatting with a friend, I’ll often be playing with my zipper, or messing with a piece of paper, or any inanimate object within eye’s view. And pretty much anytime I’m required to sit for longer than 5 minutes, I always end up relentlessly shifting around in my seat, repositioning my body because I’m either restless, just plain uncomfortable, or simply can find it in me to sit still.
Trust me, just ask my brother and he’ll tell you about my fidgeting. He often calls me out on it when we’re out to dinner because he finds my incessant fork & spoon fiddling prior to the arrival of the food to be somewhat irritating. “Can’t you just sit still?” he’ll ask me. I’ll look up at him with a puzzled stare, continuing to mindlessly fool around with my awaiting silver utensils as if I were trying to knit a sweater out of thin air or something. Half the time I’m clueless as to what he’s referring to until he says something along the lines of “you’ve always got to be playing with something”.
Then I’ll try to consciously become aware of my fidgeting and put an end to it because really, what’s with this constant fidgeting? I don’t usually make it long until I’m shifting myself in my seat and then stop to notice minutes later I’m unconsciously playing with my fork again.
I’m really not a huge fan of multitasking (although I often feel forced to do so), so I’m not sure how I’ve obtained such a fidgeting habit. I try to stay fully and solely present on whatever specific task/event lays before me. Yet isn’t fidgeting most likely stealing away a part of my attention and proving that I’m not entirely invested into what’s in front of me? I hate it when people are texting on the phone while I’m trying to have a conversation with them. Yet, is the fingering and peristant flipping of my phone in my hands almost just as distracting to another person while they’re trying to tell me a story? Who knows. My brother might argue that fidgeting is certainly distracting and irksome.
But maybe fidgeting isn’t really all that bad after all…at least in some respects.
A 2005 study done by the Mayo Clinic showed that those who are fidgetors, or have a high NEAT —meaning a high level of “non-exercise activity thermogenesis”— tend to be leaner. In fact, the Mayo Clinic went so far as to say NEAT is “more powerful than formal exercise”.
Obese people sit an average of 150 minutes more per day than those who are thin, meaning they burn 350 fewer calories than do lean people. The Mayo Clinic states that the NEAT factor plays a significant role in determining who is lean and who is obese. NEAT includes everything from tapping your toes, to cleaning the house, to picking up the guitar, to twiddling your thumbs.
However, the Mayo researchers concluded that the lack of NEAT in obese people was a result of biological differences, not a lack of motivation, thus even when obese people lose weight, they’re not likely to start constantly moving around and tapping their toes. But who’s to say that a conscious high NEAT level can’t be formed and then developed into a habit?
I’ve always been relatively naturally thin my whole life. Could it be due to my constant fidgeting? While I’m sure much of my leanness can be contributed to my family genetics and their respective body structures, maybe my fidgeting is actually helping me to stay thin, without even trying. Either way, it’s a great excuse to keep my fidgeting habits, even if some individuals such as my brother do find them a tad irritating. For all you fidgetors, fidget away!