Don’t Just Sit There…Fidget!

Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson PhD Senior Research associate Epidemiology & Public Health, Div of Population Health University College, Interview with:
Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson PhD
Senior Research associate
Epidemiology & Public Health, Div of Population Health
University College, London


Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Even among adults who meet recommended physical activity levels and who sleep for eight hours per night, it is possible to spend the vast majority of the day (up to 15 hours) sitting down. We were concerned about possible harm resulting from sitting for long periods combined with not moving.

Breaks in sitting time have previously been shown to improve markers of good health, such as body mass index and your body’s glucose and insulin responses. But until now, no study has ever examined whether fidgeting might modify an association between sitting time and mortality.

We noticed that The UK Women’s Cohort Study collected data (from 1999 to 2002) on health behavious, chronic disease, physical activity levels, sitting time – and fidgeting (a self-report scale ranging from 0 to 10, where 10 means ‘constantly’). More than 12,000 responses were received. We looked at the data to see who had died over the next 12 years.

Among women with low levels of fidgeting who also sat for 7 or more hours per day (compared to less than 5 hours), there was around a 30% increase in the risk of mortality over 12 years follow-up. Among women with medium or high levels of fidgeting, we did not see this harmful effect of sitting time, even after adjusting for other lifestyle factors including physical activity level.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: The measure of fidgeting used in this study was very limited, so it is too early to draw strong conclusions about fidgeting and any possible health benefits. Adults should follow existing guidelines about physical activity (150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity such as running or tennis per week, plus strength training of the major muscle groups). The combination of long periods of sitting and lack of movement may be harmful, but there are currently no agreed public health recommendations about sitting time.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: We have encouraged other researchers to find better measures of fidgeting in order to replicate these findings. It will be particularly important to measure fidgeting objectively, using for example ‘accelerometers’ attached to the hands and feet. The technology is now available to do this. For now, it is important that adults try to meet the physical activity recommendations, particularly if they do not engage in any physical activity.


Gareth Hagger-Johnson, Victoria Burley, Darren Greenwood, Janet E. Cade. Sitting Time, Fidgeting, and All-Cause Mortality in the UK Women’s Cohort Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2015.06.025 is not a forum for the exchange of personal medical information, advice or the promotion of self-destructive behavior (e.g., eating disorders, suicide). While you may freely discuss your troubles, you should not look to the Website for information or advice on such topics. Instead, we recommend that you talk in person with a trusted medical professional.

The information on is provided for educational purposes only, and is in no way intended to diagnose, cure, or treat any medical or other condition. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health and ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. In addition to all other limitations and disclaimers in this agreement, service provider and its third party providers disclaim any liability or loss in connection with the content provided on this website.

Dr Gareth Hagger-Johnson PhD (2015). Don’t Just Sit There…Fidget!