Movement - The Flip Side of Fidgeting

Health Benefit

  • Reduced risk of cancer and other illnesses
  • Improved overall wellness
  • Enhanced mental health


If you look up fidgeting in the dictionary you will find words like restless, agitated, nervous, or impatient. You won’t find anything in the dictionary that connects fidgeting with improved health but that’s a shame because new research demonstrates that there are positive health benefits to fidgeting.

Researchers in the United Kingdom found that fidgeting can counteract the negative health implications of sitting. This is significant because many studies have now confirmed that prolonged sitting increases risk of several illnesses including cancer. In fact, this same study that was published in the February 2016 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that women who sat for seven hours or more a day had a 30 percent increase in breast cancer risk compared to the women who sat five or less hours per day. But here’s the really interesting part of this study. The researchers found that women who were characterized in the medium category of fidgeting had no increased risk. The women who were classified as high fidgeters actually had a 37 percent reduction in risk even though they sat for five to six hours a day. The researchers concluded that “Fidgeting may reduce the risk of all-cause mortality associated with excessive sitting time.” That’s big news!

That study and another one we will discuss during this Action Step provide further evidence that any movement is good movement—even fidgeting! 


As expected, Thriver, during this Action Step you will do some fidgeting starting with your feet and working up your body. You’ll fidget while sitting and while standing. And in the process, you will be enhancing your health!

Why It Works

Fidgeting is a form of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) that has been shown to burn calories and reduce overall mortality risk.


Levine JA, Schleusner SJ, Jensen MD. Energy expenditure of nonexercise activity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72:1451-4.

Hagger-Johnson G, Gow AJ, Burley V, et al. Sitting time, fidgeting, and all-cause mortality in the UK women’s cohort study. Am J Prev Med. 2016;50(2):154-160