PEOPLE who literally canâ€™t sit still may have inborn behaviour that keeps them slim even if they overeat a little, researchers in the United States recently said.
Tests on slim and overweight people, who described themselves as â€˜couch potatoesâ€™ showed their main difference was how long they sat still.
â€œOur study shows, calories people burn in their daily activities are more important in obesity than we previously imagined,â€Dr. James Levine of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, said.
His team recruited 10 normal weight and 10 obese men and women for their study, persuading them to wear special underwear with sensors that logged every move.
They used sensors designed for controlling fighter planes and implanted them in specially designed underwear while keeping their volunteers on carefully controlled diets.
â€œIf you are going to attach sensors to people that they are going to wear all day everyday, you have to put these things, where they donâ€™t show,â€ he said.
They found the obese people spent, on average, more than two extra hours a day sitting still compared with the lean volunteers. The difference in activity accounted for about 350 calories a day â€“ enough to add 10 pounds a year. Then, they tested the idea that maybe heavier people were forced to sit more.
â€œYou might think obese people sit 164 minutes more per day because they are heavier and fall into their chairs, so to speak,â€ Levine said.
â€œIf that were the case, you would think if obese people lost weight, they would walk more easily.â€
Obese volunteers were put on a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet for two months and they lost, on average, 18 pounds. But their activities did not change.
â€œWhen we overfed the lean people, they gained excess weight and remained get-up-and-goers,â€ he said adding that the tendency to fidget may be genetic or learned at an early age.
â€œThere is either a â€˜get-up-to-goâ€™ gene or a gene that sends you into your chair,â€ Levine said. â€œI think what happens in childhood is key.â€
Either way, plenty of physical activity, early on in life is encouraged. With two-thirds of the US population overweight and other countries quickly catching up, someone needs to figure something out, he said.
â€œPerhaps, we need to think about how schools are run and the fact that we always stop kids from running when they want to,â€ he said. â€œKids donâ€™t get out to play at lunch any more.â€
Keep fiddling and be lean