Natural fidgets keep slim without effort

People who fidget find it easy to lose weight because they may have inherited a biological tendency to burn calories without even trying, a study has found.

A detailed comparison of the smallest body movements of obese and lean people over a 24-hour period has found that fidgeting has turned out to be an important way to lose weight.

Results of the study, published in the journal Science, found that obese people on average sat for 150 minutes longer each day than their naturally lean counterparts. This meant they burnt 350 fewer calories a day compared to leaner people.

The research team, led by James Levine of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, New York, showed that everyday body movements or fidgeting may be a good way of losing weight by generating heat through a process called "non-exercise activity thermogenesis" (Neat).

"Our patients have told us for years that they have low metabolism and we have never quite understood what that means until today," Dr Levine said.

"They have low Neat, which means they have a biological need to sit more. The calories people burn in their everyday activities are far, far more important in obesity than we previously imagined," he said.

The study monitored the body postures and movements of 10 obese people and 10 lean people over 24 hours using an undergarment fitted with electrical sensors.

Dr Levine said the same difference in activity levels were even found when the lean people were overfed by 1,000 calories a day and the obese people underfed by 1,000 calories."It most likely reflects a brain chemical difference... The Neat appears to be fixed," he said.

He added that obese people could be educated to develop habits that involved fidgeting and other body movements.