Fidgeting Helps Separate the Lean
From the Obese, Study Finds
By Rob Stein, Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 28, 2005; Page A02
Strolling to the bus stop, fidgeting during a meeting, standing up to stretch, jumping off the couch to change channels, and engaging in other minor physical activities can make the difference between being lean and obese, researchers reported yesterday.
The most detailed study ever conducted of mundane bodily movements found that obese people tend to be much less fidgety than lean people and spend at least two hours more each day just sitting still. The extra motion by lean people is enough to burn about 350 extra calories a day, which could add up to 10 to 30 pounds a year, the researchers found.
"There are these absolutely staggering differences between people who are lean and people who are obese," said James A. Levine of the Mayo Clinic, who led the research published in today's issue of the journal Science. "The amount of this low-grade activity is so substantial that it could, in and of itself, account for obesity quite easily."
James Levine says that the difference between the obese and the lean is that the latter tend to fidget more often than the former. He also says that this particular difference in being fidgety or not, may be biologic or inborn.
Obese people tend to be less fidgety and therefore become more obese, and the opposite happens with lean people. Lean people have this inborn trait to be fidgety, and therefore, that restlessness contributes much to their lean form.
Levine calls the fidgeting as NEAT --- short for non-exercise activity thermogenesis --- and you can see this everyday, from your friends, co-workers, or even yourself, when you can't seem to sit still and you stand up to walk around, when you always shift your position, when you twitch and twitch endlessly, or sometimes when you talk incessantly, instead of keeping quiet and being still in one corner.
Again, the whole thing boils down to your genes: some people are born to become overweight and obese, while others simply can't stand still and burn their calories continuously by fidgeting.