Fidgeting and Weight Loss

Fidgeting and Weight Loss


Some people fidget and some don’t. Fidgeting is defined as small movements, especially of the hands and feet, done through nervousness or impatience and is considered an unconscious habit. Fidgeting may also be a self-regulation mechanism to help with attention levels. People who fidget tend to daydream and be thinner than their more focused and heavier counterparts. Why is this so?

People who fidget regularly tend to weigh less than people who do not fidget because they burn more calories than those who remain perfectly still. Fidgeting is also called Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT. NEAT should not be confused with NEPA, which is a type of low grade activity such as walking to your mailbox, taking longer ways to get to and from your work, parking your car at the far end of the parking lot when going shopping, etc. Basically, it includes anything that doesn’t raise the heart rate.

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Fidgeting includes such things as as playing with your fingers, hair, or personal objects (e.g. glasses, pens or items of clothing, rings) or bouncing your leg repeatedly. Your tendency to fidget might be distracting in meetings and annoying to your co-workers, but it may help you lose weight. According to a Mayo Clinic study, fidgeting while sitting or standing, actually increases the amount of calories you burn as compared to those lying or sitting perfectly still. In this study, the researchers monitored the movement of 10 obese people and 10 lean people and calculated that a little fidgeting could burn off about 350 extra calories per day. It may not seem like a lot but it is enough to maintain a lean figure. In fact, you could potentially drop a pound a week by trimming 500 calories each day. Inversely, we only need to eat 100 to 200 calories more than what we expend to incrementally gain weight, so the small amount exerted by fidgeting could be enough to address this imbalance. Sure, tapping your toes or bouncing your knee is not going to radically help you re-shape your body or be enough to allow you to skip the gym, but it will help you maintain your weight.

In other words, a little bit of physical activity can go a long way. Some researchers believe that it only takes about a minutes of high-intensity exercise (also known as HIIT) to see positive results. The so called 1-minute workout should ideally be done within a 10-minute block to fully reap the benefits.

So continue tapping your toes, twiddling your fingers or playing with your hair. All those little unconscious movements will make the calories add up and keep the weight off.

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