The Power of Fidgeting

Apr 17 2017 - 10:11pm

Why do people fidget and how to stop fidgeting, are commonly asked questions, but this story may compell you to think about fidgeting in a different and powerful way.

“Patrick just can’t hold still,” was a common complaint at parent-teacher conferences. Having to sit still in class seemed like a prison sentence, cruel and unusual punishment to force a young boy in the prime of life to be anchored to an orange plastic chair with a bumpy texture and a scooped-shape to ensure I hunched forward. “He needs Ritalin,” they told my parents, and so my parents took me to a doctor and got me a prescription for Ritalin. Once or twice a day, I was sent out of class to walk over to the nurse’s office to take my Ritalin dose so that I could return to class, remain stationary and pretend to learn subjects whose names I can’t even recall. “This is for your own good,” a teacher once said to me as I was dismissed in front of my classmates to go take my medicine.

But I suspected otherwise. It seemed unnatural that I should have to sit so perfectly still when my body was still telling me to run about, to explore, to see what I could fit under or find a way to crawl over. At the time, it seemed much like an evil plot against me, against all children. And, as with so many things, time has proven me right. Take that, various elementary and middle school teachers.

Well, it turns out that those who spend a great deal of time sitting have a wildly high mortality rate compared to those who don’t. In fact, it’s estimated that sitting for one hour shaves two off your life expectancy. It may feel like common sense to say that people who sit a great deal are not in the same shape as people who are generally more active, but the degree to which that’s true is surprising. Not surprising in the “oh, I wouldn’t have guessed” way, either. It’s more the “I’m dying and I had no idea” sort of surprising. Those who sit for prolonged periods of time showed to be 8% more likely to develop colon cancer, 10% more likely to develop uterine cancer and even showed to be at higher risk of lung cancer. This was on top of any cardiovascular consequences you might otherwise suspect.

And the best part (“best” meaning here “sensational” but most literally translating to “apocalyptically grim”) is the fact these results were regardless of whether or not people avidly went to the gym or played sports after hours. In other words, being physically active at a later point in the day was shown to not negate the damage done by sitting even six hours a day. So, if you’ve been hitting the stationary bike when you get home or jogging laps around the block but feel like you’re still struggling to get a handle on your physical health, the good news it’s not in your head.
Again, in this instance, “good news” translates to “I’m so sorry to be the one to tell you this…”

So what can be done to prevent you from slowly turning into a rigid corpse anchor to your work station, rigor mortis causing you click your mouse involuntarily?

Fidget. Those tiny, meaning movements you don’t even realize you do? They make a huge difference.