Does Fidgeting Help Burn Calories?

Author: Richard Weil, MEd, CDE
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Exercise scientists have been studying fidgeting for more than 20 years. You've seen people fidget. They're the restless ones who can't sit still. They wiggle in their chairs, pace while waiting for a bus, and twist and fiddle while standing on line. Claude Bouchard is a scientist who studies the genetics of fitness and fidgeting. In his research, he has discovered that some individuals move more than others and that the tendency toward extra movement is determined by genetics. He has even found that fraternal twins (nonidentical) don't move the same amount. His conclusion is that some individuals are programmed to move more than others.

James Levine, MD, is a physician who studies physical activity and fidgeting. Dr. Levine has confirmed that heavy people sit more than lean people. In one study, he found that obese individuals sat nine and a half hours per day compared with lean individuals who sat less than seven hours per day. One must ask the chicken or egg question; that is, do obese individuals move less than lean individuals because they are heavier, or are they heavier because they move less? Many scientists believe it is some combination of both, and most agree that some people are genetically programmed to spontaneously move more than others. Just keep your eyes open and observe movement patterns of people all around you (including your own!). You'll soon see that some people do indeed move spontaneously more than others.