I love the piece today reported in all national press in the Guardian that women fidgets live longer than women non-fidgets. Long ago, around the time in 1904 when ADHD was first reported in the British medical journal the Lancet, alongside the poem “Fidgety Phil” – ADHDers were described as “fidgets”.
Now, a joint study with research by scientists at the University of Leeds including 13,000 women, tracked between 1999 and 2002, shows that even mild fidgeting is better than no fidgeting, when it comes to the negative effect of sitting in a seat for long periods of time. The study had nothing to do with ADHD – and asked women to self report on their fidgeting in their seats – on a scale of one to ten.
Although more research needs to be done into why the physiological benefits of fidgeting seems to prevent an early death, and it is disappointing that ADHD is not even mentioned in the study, the study immediately resonates with me. Just as the study was instigated by Professor Janet Cade on a hunch that fidgeting affected health, I have also had a hunch that there are some mild benefits to ADHD, especially as you get older.
Recently, with all the evidence that exercise helps ADHD, I have been walking stridently, for around an hour and a half, around 6 miles in one stretch – just to quell the restlessness and anxiety that builds up like a toxic sink trap. Especially since giving up smoking. And the benefits are immediate after just one week.
Apart from processing all the busy mental chatter, and allowing the giant rolodex of things to do to spin around my head, without feeling like it is going to explode – it has also improved my physical health. Obvious really, but I can now leap up off the sofa to get the remote controls for the tv, stiffness has receded, I can jump out of bed and seem to have more energy – not less. Suddenly, exercise seems to be a giant answer to so many problems, a fix all for the yet-to-be broken. The only bore is you have to have time as well as motivation to get out there. The restlessness so often cited as a downside to the bundle of traits, has actually been the red-hot poker to get me out of the house, into the countryside and feeling better after a good hour of walking. Sadly short bursts don’t seem to have the same effect for me, it has to be a good long stretch.
However, exercise and fidgeting are two different things, and this study recognises this. “Physical activity does not offset that negative effect of sitting”, says Professor Janet Cade of nuturitional epidemiology explains – ie, people can do their daily exercise and still be over-sedentary in their seats. Instead, it appears that there is a possiblility that there is something metabolic in the fidgeting – your body is being prevented from entering a sedentary state – with all the negative effects that has on you – if you are fidgeting away.
Well, all of the above is good news for the ADHDers, who now deserve their own study. Hot on the heels of the news from another piece of research by the University of Florida, that hyperactive children in class should be encouraged to fidget in some practical way in a report in the Telegraph in April . Under the banner of allowing children to express rather than suppress their fidgeting, it shows that fidgeting is at last being accepted as a Good Thing for the person doing it (if still a bit annoying for those that aren’t unless practised silently).
Now we know that those female fidgets will live longer, too.