Here’s something schools and offices usually have in common: hours of sitting. Despite the number of states that mandate recess and gym class, twenty minutes of kickball can’t reverse the effects of day-long inactivity in the classroom. For workers without such breaks (adult recess–what a concept), we trudge through even longer inactive hours. The health risks of prolonged sedentary behavior are frightening: lower circulation and poor heart health, among other afflictions.
Humans did not evolve to be still; our earliest ancestors were constantly in motion to collect, hunt, build, and protect themselves. It makes sense, then, that performing casual movement throughout the day could dramatically ameliorate situations that typically demand long hours of sitting–everything from taking more walking breaks to stretching periodically to fidgeting, the theme of this blog post, helps the body. The trick is to get up, switch your posture, and move as much as possible.
For those who truly can’t get away from their desks, here’s something to consider: in a groundbreaking 2016 study, The American Journal of Physiology Heart and Circulatory Physiology found that lower-body fidgeting can help elevate circulation in the legs, enough to partially alleviate the effects of prolonged sitting. All that toe-tapping and leg shaking is probably helping your health, they concluded. This means that even chair-bound workers can be mindful about moving more.
Some tips and things to remember:
1. Let it Go
In short, we need to throw away the conception that fidgeting is rude; students, teachers, and workers should be able to embrace the human need to move. “Lets face it: Children are not nearly moving enough, and it is really starting to become a problem,” writes Valerie Strauss in her Washington Post article Why so many kids can’t sit still in school today. “In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move,” she says.
2. Try a Standing Desk
Standing naturally encourages weight shifting and other kinds of fidgeting; you can also try tools like a balance board to keep your body engaged. Also, standing desks aren’t just for adults–an August 2016 study from Texas A&M determined that standing desks in schools help kids burn more calories and slow increases in body mass index (check out the AlphaBetter® Desk, a standing desk with a built-in fidget bar for students).
3. Fidget to Focus
Tools like fidget spinners and fidget cubes aren’t just a fad–aside from the instinctual satisfaction they inspire, growing evidence suggests that fidgeting can actually improve your concentration. Whether you’re fiddling with your hands or moving your lower body, you could be doing wonders for your brain.
For those who want to channel their fidgety energy into more regular movement, DeskCycle makes a good under desk elliptical, and this article from Greatist demonstrates some easy “deskercises” you can do throughout your workday.