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 http://www.easily-diet.net/category5/entry17.html© Japan Today