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A Heriot-Watt researcher has been involved in a study which shows that fidgeting can be good for you, helping to counteract the adverse health impacts of sitting for long periods.

The new findings, representing a collaboration between researchers at the University of Leeds, University College London, and Heriot-Watt, were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. They say that an increased risk of mortality from sitting for long periods was only found in those who consider themselves very occasional fidgeters.

Small lifestyle changes may have important benefits for health.
Dr Alan Gow

They found no increased risk of mortality from longer sitting times, compared to more active women, in those who considered themselves as moderately or very fidgety.

The study, led by the University of Leeds,  examined data from the UK Women’s Cohort Study, one of the largest cohort studies of diet and health of women in the UK.

It found that even among adults who meet recommended physical activity levels and who sleep for eight hours per night, it is possible to spend the vast majority of the day (up to 15 hours) sitting down and builds on growing evidence suggesting that a sedentary lifestyle is bad for your health, even if you are physically active outside work.

Breaks in sitting time have previously been shown to improve markers of good health, but until now, no study has examined whether fidgeting might modify an association between sitting time and death rates.

Co-author Dr Alan Gow, Associate Professor in Psychology in the University’s School of Life Sciences, said, “The negative impacts of sitting for long periods are becoming more widely recognised. The current study doesn’t suggest fidgeting alone is a substitute for being physically active more generally, but it encourages further research on how small lifestyle changes may have important benefits for health.”