Can Fidgeting Help You Lose Weight?

Can fidgeting help you take off those excess pounds? Find out why mastering the art of fidgeting could work in your favor when it comes to weight control

Are you a fidgeter? Is your leg or arm constantly moving when you talk on the phone or sit at your computer? While it may seem like fidgeting results in a lot of wasted energy, all of that meaningless movement burns calories which leads to one of the most important benefits of fidgeting – weight control.

As it turns out, studies show that the simple act of fidgeting can burn enough calories to keep the waistline trim and the thighs slim even without formal exercise. A small study showed that people who constantly fidget expend enough energy to avoid weight gain, in some cases, even when they overeat. The researchers at Mayo coined a term for this type of fidgeting activity – non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT.

It seems that the reason some people are fond of fidgeting while others prefer to take it easy has to do with brain biochemistry. Some people have a propensity to take it slow, while others feel the need to constantly move around even when they’re “relaxing” in a chair. Researchers found that even when the thinner fidgeters gained weight they still fidgeted, and when the non-fidgeters lost weight they continued to take it easy.

Despite this, researchers still believe that overweight and obese people can be retrained to burn more calories by mastering the art of fidgeting. So strong do some believe this that they feel it could pose an answer to the obesity epidemic. Their reasoning is that it’s easier to teach someone to move around at their desk or in front of the television set than it is to get them to the gym to run on a treadmill. Apparently, the effects of this non-exercise activity thermogenesis can add up to significant caloric expenditure over time.

The concept of fidgeting as a means of weight control could also explain some of the weight loss effects of drinking coffee, energy drinks, green tea, and other caffeinated beverages. Caffeine is believed to have some thermogenic effects on its own, but there’s little doubt that people who take in large quantities of caffeine fidget and move around more overall.

Weight control may not be the only benefit of fidgeting. Some studies show that fidgeting helps children learn better, particularly children with ADHD. Fidgeting may help to keep the brain focused and alert rather than allowing it to revert to autopilot.

How can you make the concept of fidgeting work for you? If you’re not a natural born fidgeter, learning the art of fidgeting will require awareness at first. When sitting, make a conscious effort to tap your feet or drum your fingers on the table. When standing in line, shuffle your feet and rock back and forth from side to side. Keep a gadget in your hand that’ll remind you to keep moving such as a hand exerciser. Do some stretches. With a little focus and effort, the act of fidgeting can become second nature. The result? Those size fourteen pants might start to feel a little looser.

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