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Fidgeting might be good for your health, new study suggests

Take a pen clicking break. You deserve it! (Maximkostenko/iStock)

Good news, workplace fidgeters! A new study suggests that some healthy fidgeting throughout the day might be the key to surviving a sedentary life. Just don't go canceling your gym membership -- even if the study's findings are true, fidgeting is just one small part of a healthy lifestyle. Like, really small.

[Graphic: The health hazards of sitting]

You've probably heard that sitting down all day is slowly killing you. It's a real bummer, I know. I'm sitting right now! Everything is terrible. And according to some research, standing all day is bad for you, too. We just can't win.

Some studies have suggested that regular, brief fitness intervals are the key to making sedentary life less sickening. And hey, it can't hurt: take a lap every now and then. But that doesn't mean you're off the hook when your backside meets the chair -- you can make your sitting active, too.

Wiggle in your chair! Jiggle your feet around! Click pens! Is your neighbor annoyed yet? Who cares, you're gonna live forever!

Obviously I'm being sarcastic here, but my general point stands: There's no reason to be a lazy lump when you're sitting down.

[What do you fidget with at your desk? Scientists want to know.]

The latest pro-fidgeting data, reported Wednesday in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, comes from the long-term study of 14,000 women between the ages of 35 and 69, all living in Britain. These women were surveyed on their eating habits, then responded to a follow-up survey asking about health behaviors, chronic disease, physical activity levels and fidgeting. 

The researchers wanted to see whether sedentary lifestyles increased the risk of death in the women surveyed, when all other factors had been accounted for. Surprisingly, the increased mortality was only seen in the group that reported the lowest level of fidgeting.

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"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," study co-lead Janet Cade of the University of Leeds said in a statement

A survey of just women -- and a self-reported survey at that -- can't be taken as evidence that fidgeting will single-handedly save you from a slow desk-death. But this actually isn't the first study to suggest that fidgeting might be healthful: A 2011 study found that so-called "incidental activity" could improve overall fitness, and an earlier study showed that lean women were more likely to fidget than those who were overweight.  

And even if it doesn't help your physical health, fidgeting might be good for your mental wellbeing: Many researchers believe that these squirms are humanity's way of dealing with a transition from super-active lifestyles -- think hunting and gathering -- to modernity's relative laziness. Without drumming our fingers and tapping our toes, many of us would have more nervous energy than we could handle.

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