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Fidget For Life

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I will no longer tell my children to stop fidgeting:

    The most detailed study ever conducted of mundane bodily movements found that obese people tend to be much less fidgety than lean people and spend at least two hours more each day just sitting still. The extra motion by lean people is enough to burn about 350 extra calories a day, which could add up to 10 to 30 pounds a year, the researchers found.

    “There are these absolutely staggering differences between people who are lean and people who are obese,” said James A. Levine of the Mayo Clinic, who led the research published in today’s issue of the journal Science. “The amount of this low-grade activity is so substantial that it could, in and of itself, account for obesity quite easily.”

    ….”Some may say this is a story of doom and gloom — that people with obesity have no choice. It’s all over. I would argue exactly the opposite,” Levine said. “There’s a massive beacon of hope here. But it’s going to take a massive, top-down approach to change the environment in which we live to get us up and be lean again.”

    ….”Figuring out ways to increase physical activity — not necessarily getting people jogging every day but just building physical activity into a person’s day — are reasonable strategies that have the promise to combat this epidemic of obesity,” said William Dietz of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

    ….For the study, Levine and his colleagues developed a system that can detect the smallest tap of a toe — high-tech underwear resembling bicycle pants and sports bras or T-shirts embedded with sensors, originally designed for fighter jets, that take measurements every half-second.

    Ten men and 10 women, half of them lean and the other half mildly obese, wore the garments 24 hours a day for 10 days as they went about their usual routines. They went to the Mayo Clinic every morning to be weighed, get new undergarments so researchers could download data from the previous day’s undergarments, and get meals for the day, so the researchers knew what they were eating. All considered themselves “couch potatoes” because they eschewed regular exercise.

    Based on millions of bits of data, the researchers determined that each day, the lean subjects spent at least 150 more minutes moving in some way than the obese subjects.

    ….”There may be brain chemicals driving obese people into their chairs or driving lean people out of them,” Levine said.

    As society and technology have made it easier for sitters to sit, that inclination has been exaggerated, which could help explain a large part of the obesity problem, Levine and others said.

    ….”We can begin to say to people, ‘Yes, it would be good if you went jogging, and it would be good if you went to the gym. But it’s also good to keep getting up, moving around.’ Fidgeting and doing all those small things will make a difference,” said Paul Trayhurn of the University of Liverpool in England. [Washington Post]

Although I sit in front of a computer all day, I’m a fidgeter and I take frequent breaks to walk around, change my sitting position, stretch, take a look outside, etc. But then I also work out pretty hard on a regular basis and ALWAYS feel better when I am active than when I am not. I think it’s okay to be “selfish” like that and take of yourself. I also agree with Levine that this is very encouraging news: that it isn’t all or nothing, it’s not lift weights and run two hours a day or do nothing at all, that small, steady activity has a real effect.

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About Eric Olsen

  • NancyGail

    It works, to a point.

  • bhw

    Here’s a sentence I never expected to read in my lifetime:

    They went to the Mayo Clinic every morning to be weighed, get new undergarments so researchers could download data from the previous day’s undergarments,


    On a serious note, there is a lot of truth to what they’re finding. For example, people with Parkinsons and Huntingtons disease — people whose muscles are moving constantly — get very thin as their conditions worsen, even if they’re still able to eat well.

  • Al Barger

    I walked into the kitchen to get some cookies. After that workout, I needed sustenance.

  • RJ

    I am a horrible fidgeter. I am constantly moving some part of my body, even in meetings. Either I’m chewing gum, or tapping my toes, whatever.

    Also, I thrash around like a lunatic while I’m asleep.

    Oddly enough, I still need to lose a few pounds… :-/

  • Katharine Donelson

    brilliant. All that energy I’ve put into trying to sit still I can now stop putting into trying to sit still and I may drop a few extra pounds because of it? That is awesome.

  • Eric Olsen

    my thoughts as well, Katharine