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Fidgeting is good for you

McKinley Valentine — 2 min read
Fidgeting is good for you
Photo by charlesdeluvio / Unsplash

It annoys other people but they should learn to put up with it because:

1. It counteracts some of the negative effects of sitting (specifically, blood flow and artery health, the kind of thing that causes deep vein thrombosis on planes).

2. Uses a surprising amount of calories (100 to 800 a day [400ish to 3500ish kj]). It seems like your body uses it as a way to maintain its weight set-point - in this study, they gave a bunch of people too much food, and they started unconsciously fidgeting way more than the control group, who'd eaten their usual amount. (Source + more explanation)

Regardless of the kilojoules, most people are way too sedentary, and any movement we can get into our days is a good thing.

3. People fidget when they're stressed (it's called 'displacement behaviours') because displacement behaviours do seem to lower stress (this study says only in men, but they also say it might just be because women tend to be more aware of having their image scrutinised, and feel more pressure to behave in socially acceptable ways, which includes not fidgeting).

Anyway my theory is, that's probably exactly why fidgeting annoys people: we are highly attuned to stress and tension in people around us (think of meerkats - one acts as a lookout, and the others care enormously if the lookout seems concerned).

List of Displacement Behaviours

For the study above they had to categorise and count displacement behaviours. Please enjoy feeling immediately self-conscious about how many you do!

Groom: The fingers are passed through the hair in a combing movement.
Hand-face: Hand(s) in contact with the face.
Hand-mouth: Hand(s) in contact with the mouth.
Scratch: The fingernails are used to scratch part of the body, frequently the head.
Yawn: The mouth opens widely, roundly, and fairly slowly closing more swiftly. Mouth movement is accompanied by a deep breath and often closing of the eyes and lowering of the brows.
Fumble: Twisting and fiddling finger movements with wedding ring, handkerchief,
other hand.
Twist mouth: The lips are closed, pushed forward, and twisted to one side.
Lick lips: The tongue is passed over the lips.
Bite lips: One lip usually the lower is drawn into the mouth and held between the teeth.

This piece was originally published in The Whippet #75 – subscribe to get the next one in your inbox!

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