Fidgeters Burn 350 More Calories Per Day
February 25, 2012 by staff
Fidgeters Burn 350 More Calories Per Day, I’m beginning to regret that I ever told my husband about last year’s underwear experiment at the Mayo Clinic.
In the study, a group of 20 volunteers – some thin, some overweight – wore high-tech undergarments day in and day out. (To my husband’s disappointment, the clothing looked more like long johns than lingerie.) The underwear contained motion sensors that tracked the wearers’ every move. If they took a step, paused, shrugged, paced the room, scratched an itchy nose, or gestured wildly with their hands while reenacting the latest Sopranos episode, the action got recorded. At the end of 10 days, the investigators tallied up who’d moved the most.
To no one’s surprise, the skinny subjects turned out to be more fidgety. What did surprise the scientists was just how big a difference their extra movements made: The fidgeters burned as many as 350 extra calories a day. Even more interesting, when the investigators deliberately overfed the twitchy, which they did for 8 weeks, the fidgeters didn’t become fat and slothful. They just paced, shifted their weight, and bit their cuticles even more. Something about these people compelled them to move. And it wasn’t, as my husband suggested, that “maybe their underwear was chafing them.” No, it seemed that the fidgeters simply had to be up and about, like hummingbirds. They had superfast metabolisms. And so they burned calories faster than anyone else.
Since I read this study, I’ve been drumming my fingers madly on any available surface and whipping my hair around like a supermodel in a cyclone. My husband has eyed my aimless hyperactivity dubiously. “I don’t think I can stand for you to be this fidgety,” he says, then pauses. “Unless you do it in a thong.”
Step On It Already
I’m on a quest to tweak my metabolism. I used to have hip bones that jutted and a collarbone that could gut fish. I’m not bragging, merely relaying facts, when I say that I’ve always been effortlessly wiry. But a creeping doughiness has set in lately, as if a Teletubby were taking over my physique. Instead of dieting – deprivation is such a buzz kill – I’ve decided to try to rev my calorie-burning machinery, to make my metabolism hum.
This is not, unfortunately, as simple as it sounds, or no one would be obese. Human metabolism involves a boggling number of biochemical processes. Think a car engine is complicated? It has nothing on the internal-combustion engines we carry around. Metabolism is the process by which our bodies convert food (fuel) into energy (blood sugar or, more technically, glucose). Every cell in the body is involved, because every cell needs energy. The heart, lungs, digestive organs, muscles, and brain all use glucose. The more work they have to do, the faster our metabolisms go. The simplest definition of metabolic rate is that it’s the number of calories your body needs to function. That number changes constantly, depending on how fast your heart is beating, whether your muscles are idle or active, whether you’ve just eaten a large lunch, how much you decide to yell at your kid for turning the living-room wall into a paint canvas, and so on.
Here’s a glimpse of the metabolic activity going on inside you at this very moment. A part of your brain called the hypothalamus is releasing a hormone that tells the nearby pituitary gland how much of another hormone, called thyroid stimulating hormone, to release. This chemical nudge stimulates – you got it – your thyroid (that gland just beneath your Adam’s apple). It releases still more hormones that help control every aspect of your metabolism, from your heart rate to the amount of glucose your cells absorb. But your thyroid isn’t a lone gunman. Your pancreas is also releasing insulin, which controls the levels of glucose in your blood. And the adrenal glands are pumping out hormones that affect how fast your heart beats and your lungs inflate.
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