Fidgeting Pays Off

Obtained from site for all fellow fidgetors!

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!

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  • Reply
    Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    June 23, 2010 at 8:13 am

    I’ve read about NEAT and I think it’s so true. I fidget and move around all the time and I’m pretty thin. I don’ t know if it can turn an obese person slim, but I think it can help alongside exercise. The thing is, I think most fidgeters don’t do it consciously. At least I don’t.

  • Reply
    June 23, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Do you fidget more when you’re exercising more? I’ve always been a huge fidgeter, but it can get crazy when I’m in marathon training. It seems like the more I run, the more I fidget when not running. It’s different with weight training. Weight training helps to calm me down.

  • Reply
    Kady @ Livin, Lovin, Learnin
    June 23, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    I’ve heard of this study before, but only a quick sentence or two in a magazines, so thanks for filling it out a bit for me! A lot of thin people I know are fidgeters. It makes sense that people who constantly move throughout the day burn more calories than those who sit at a desk all day and just spend a little time doing a workout. You don’t get tired out from little movements like you do from a workout, so you don’t feel the need to sit still and “rest” the rest of the day. Unfortunately you don’t get the heart/body benefits from fidgeting like from exercise, but it’s not really hurting anything (except for the people you’re annoying!). I think the commenter above me has a good idea – I don’t feel fidget-y when I’m working out more.

  • Reply
    June 23, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    I believe this is true, totally! Sadly, I am not a fidgeter and if I had to guess my NEAT is pretty low! Darn!

  • Reply
    Simply Life
    June 23, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Ha, this is great know- thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    June 23, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Interesting. I can sit still and not fidget. But then again, I’ve always struggled with weight. I work 9-10 hours a day and I sit ALL DAY LONG. Ugh. That I don’t like. I do get up about every hour to go to the bathroom or refill water. For a while I attempted to do desk exercises, but it didn’t stick. I should try more of those. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    June 24, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Love the post. I fidget all the time. People think I’m bored of them when we get coffee, but I just really have to play with the straw wrapper.

    Like the blog.

  • Reply
    Steven at Positive Massage
    June 24, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Not just fidgeting, but being on your feet. My top rule of fitness is “Don’t Sit Down.” When you do have to sit, try an inflatable exercise ball(aka stability ball or Swiss ball) because it does require some effort to balance. Plus, it will enable a whole new range of fidgeting fun!

  • Reply
    June 24, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    I had seen the “fidgeting study.” I think NEAT is important. And I agree with you, I think moving around a lot can be made into a habit. I don’t think I necessarily fidget a lot, but I am very aware of how much I move around during the day. I always try to fit as much walking, lifting, and moving around into my day as I can: parking further away, going up and down the stairs a few extra times, etc.

  • Reply
    June 26, 2010 at 7:35 am

    This is really interesting. I think I’m somewhat of a fidgetor to- but I think for me its out of nervous habit. Like when talking to someone new (or out on a date! eek.) I constantly look at my phone, check the time, put chapstick on, play with my straw or cup top when I’m out to dinner, etc. But like you said, maybe its a good thing? Despite how distracting it may be?

    I love your writers voice Grace.

  • Reply
    July 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    I suppose this is true. For years in primary school I was the ‘perfect’ student who rarely fiddled or fidgeted. However in high school where fidgeting isn’t frowned on so much I began to pick up habits – particularly when I had braces and constantly felt the need to chew in something (normally a pen lid). It was about at this time that I began to lose weight, a blessing in many ways as I had always been, and looked, large.

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