A new study out of Mayo Clinic offers us this news: Skinny people tend to fidget. Heavy people tend not to. Skinny people sit less, heavy people sit more.
When I read this, I felt a great, big wholloping “Duh!” coming on. A thinner person might have thrown their laptop across the room, but I’m more of a sedentary type, and limited my movement to just allowing my jaw to drop open. We needed a study to tell us that skinny people move more?
After I calmed down, I read on. The difference in a thinner person’s fidgeting means they burn, on average, 350 more calories per day than I do. That’s a difference of about a pound every 10 days, 36 pounds per year, and the difference between morbid obesity or reasonable health in one person’s lifetime. That’s some powerful fidgeting.
I work hard every day to make up for a 500-800 calorie difference between my own metabolism and one considered average. The average calorie intake for a moderately active adult my age is around 2,000 calories per day. But I can’t take in nearly that amount without gaining weight. Why? I’m an extremely still person by nature. Though I have added a great deal of exercise to my week, I can happily sit and write all day long, burning no more energy than it takes to breathe, digest, and work a keyboard and mouse.
And there are legions of us. People like me who move little, burn less, and so need to be careful about every calorie we take in or risk poor health.
What I love about this study is that it helps to blast apart the notion that every overweight person eats excessively. Many of us may be eating the recommended 2,000 calorie per day diet, or perhaps less than the skinny person in the next seat, but because we burn substantially fewer calories per day, the weight just keeps creeping on. The less active we become, the faster the weight packs on.
The hope behind the study is the message that all activity contributes to weight management.
So how can the fidgetless among us level the playing field? The study suggests it’s not possible for me to change my nature, but with focus and intention, I can change my lifestyle to increase my daily calorie burn. I can exercise more, of course, but I’m also working on adding a few more active daily habits. I have a new timer for working at my computer that reminds me to get up and walk about a bit every hour or so. I can do calisthenics during commercial breaks. I can throw in a few pushups and squats after brushing my teeth. I can take the stairs twice when once will do. I can wear my pedometer and look for ways to pump the numbers up. I can dance.
In the end, the study doesn’t tell us a thing we haven’t guessed already. But it is a reminder to those of us who struggle to maintain a healthy weight — we’ll never be naturally thin. For us, getting and staying fit takes constant focus, mindfulness, dedication. We do have to work at it.
Happy fidgeting to you and yours.