Fidgeting feet: An annoying habit that's good for you?


In Japanese, a person who fidgets such as by repeatedly tapping a foot nervously, jiggling a knee up and down or crossing his legs and swinging the top one back and forth is said to be engaging in "bimbo-yusuri" -- literally "poor shaking." A variety of explanations have been suggested for this type of unconscious action, such as nervousness, grouchiness or feelings of agitation. Some people find the sight of others fidgeting to be rather annoying.

But if you are unable to rid yourself of the habit, Nikkan Gendai (Oct 21) has some good news. A recent British study of fatality risks among 12,778 females between the ages of 37 to 78 found that those in the group who sat for over 7 hours or more at a time, and who do not engage in leg-swinging have a 30% higher fatality risk than do those in the group who sat for five hours or less. But on the other hand, among those who habitually fidget, no increases were observed in either the 5-6 hour groups or the over seven-hour group.

The researchers, who published the results of the study in a U.S.-based online medical journal, concluded that foot tapping and leg jiggling may reduce the fatality risk among those who sit for prolonged periods.

Sedentary behavior, including prolonged sitting, is regarded as a causal factor in a variety of ailments, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

"While in a seated posture, the brain halts transmission of electrical pulses to the leg muscles, and metabolism declines," says Dr Koki Shin, director of the Shin Clinic in Tokyo's Ota Ward. "Over a prolonged period, it can lead to obesity. And not moving the legs can raise the risk of developing type-2 diabetes. There are reports stating the risk of diabetes is aggravated 91% by prolonged sitting."

"Another side-effect of sedentary behavior is that it reduces secretion of hormones, which retard the efficiency of consumption of neutral lipids, which leads to reduction in desirable high-density lipoprotein cholesterol," Shin continues. "It is also known that this can cause a decline in the function of the blood vessels, which in turn negatively affect circulation, increasing the load on the heart."

The doctor cites studies in the U.S. that found individuals who sit for prolonged periods show an 18% higher fatality risk of cardiovascular disease and 13% higher risk for cancer.

Nervously tapping a foot or swinging a leg may be beneficial in reducing the risks.

"'Bimbo yusuri,' which involves small leg movements, can also be said to make the tendons in the legs constrict and relax, promoting circulation," says Dr Shin. "I suppose that such movements can relieve the negative effects of prolonged sitting to some extent."

This is not by any means the first report to have appeared concerning the benefits of nervous fidgeting. Another study determined that tapping one's foot or swinging one's leg for two hours will consume up to 200 kilocalories. The activity was even noted in a report by the World Health Organization, which recommended it, based on the calculation that it was enough to "consume excess caloric intake."

"Engaging in 'bimbo yusuri' for just three minutes can raise the temperature in the calves by one degree," stated Prof Kagemoto Yuasa of the Department of Physical Education, Chukyo University. "That's about the same result as 20 minutes of walking."

Dr Shin also advises that at the very least, you should get up out of your chair once every hour. "Just doing that will have a beneficial effect," he points out.

As for those of you out there concerned over your unconscious habit of fidgeting, there's no reason to stop. It might even be good for you. There's even a Japanese web site introducing the "bimbo yururi diet." One female patient in Kyushu claimed that following Dr Akio Inoue's advice and engaging in "leg jiggling," she was even able to avoid hip replacement surgery. If you'd like to give it a try, watch the video at

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A pretty leg giving a slight swing is healthy also for those watching.

It must be sad to have to be stuck at a desk all day long with little chance at moving.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I used to sit behind a girl in high school who swung her leg so vigorously her head would bob up and down. Several boys in the class used to refer to this activity as "Doing the Susan."

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Some ladies have shoe dangling down to an art - is there a Japanese term for that also?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I had a girlfriend that actually took pride in sitting still for long periods of time like a statue.....hope she read this report!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

It drives me nuts if people around me engage in binbo-yusuri, and I've been in exam situations where the person next to me does it and I've wanted to scream at them to stop. Not as bad as the people who have pens you can click and keep clicking them constantly, but oh well. I think in most cases it is indeed a nervous habit -- not all that different from biting ones nails, but less disgusting.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Flicking lighters open and shut can be annoying too.

The article does not mention the obvious. Do your fidgeting out of sight and hearing of others. Some things you do may be pleasurable, but really not so for people around you. TPO...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I'm a foot fidgeter. If someone has a problem with that, I'm sorry to hear that they have that problem. But it's theirs, not mine.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I've seen ads on US TV for drugs to combat "restless leg syndrome". I doubt they do you any good.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Fidgeting actually helps people work out problems and has also long been associated with Type A personality. In other words a aggressive and impatient person making them more prone to fidget.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I'm a foot-tapper/pen-clicker/finger-tapper/head-bobber... particularly when I'm nervous... so pretty much every time I get on a plane, go somewhere new... at meetings... anytime really lol

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I remember reading somewhere that nervous people who were always tapping their fingers on the table or pacing the floor also had fewer heart attacks compared with people who bottled up their nervousness.

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I have terrible leg circulation and have all my lie. I've walked, bicycled, swam and run for most of my life as well, but it is genetic and I have to move my legs or feet constantly or sit, lie or stand in certain ways.

Bad furniture doesn't help and most of the world has nothing BUT bad furniture.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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