If you've been living under a rock for the past five years, we have some bad news for you: sitting down for the majority of the day is bad for you. And we're talking really, life-shorteningly, scientifically verified bad for you. But a new study of more than 12,000 women in the UK suggests that by fidgeting in our seats, we might be able to counteract some of those harmful health impacts - without having to go out and invest in a standing desk.
The research followed women aged between 37 and 78 over a 12-year period, and collected information on their diets, exercise regimes, health, and, on a scale from one to 10, how much they fidgeted. The results showed that the women who sat for 7 hours a day or more were 30 percent more likely to die during the study than their more active peers - but not if they were rampant fidgeters.
The study was only based on women self-rating the amount that they fidget while sitting down, so it's definitely not conclusive, because it's highly likely that many people would classify themselves as habitual fidgeters when they barely move, and vice versa. But this is the first study of its kind, and the results are interesting enough to prompt further research into the link between fidgeting and the damage of sitting.
"While further research is needed, the findings raise questions about whether the negative associations with fidgeting, such as rudeness or lack of concentration, should persist if such simple movements are beneficial for our health," lead researcher Janet Cade from the University of Leeds said in a press release.
In an ideal world, we wouldn't need studies like this to tell us to move around more during the day. But the reality is that most of us work at a desk for a minimum of 8 hours a day. We then go and eat our dinner sitting down, and usually spend the rest of the night sitting in front of the TV. Sure, we might break that up with an hour-long workout, but research has shown that's not enough to counteract all that seat time.
This study also showed that even women who met recommended physical activity levels and slept 8 hours a night were still able to spend up to 15 hours a day sitting down.
Until now, the only thing that's been shown to help mitigate the effects of being seated is regular breaks - whether that's standing up, stretching, or going for a short walk. But this is the first study to suggest that fidgeting might be enough of a break to make a difference to our health.
The research was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, and we're looking forward to seeing further experiments on the relationship.
Before we let you get back to your sitting time though, we have to give a shout out to Bill Nicol, who commented this totally terrible (but awesome) dad joke on The Guardian's story on the research:
Because if you can't make fun of the fact that we're literally sitting ourselves to death every single day, then what can you make fun of?