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The Calories Burned Shaking a Leg

author image Jon Williams
Jon Williams is a clinical psychologist and freelance writer. He has performed, presented and published research on a variety of psychological and physical health issues.
The Calories Burned Shaking a Leg
Those who fidget burn more calories.

The next time someone tells you to “shake a leg,” take their advice. Shaking your leg and fidgeting in your seat or with your hands can burn calories.

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NEAT Ways to Lose Weight

NEAT, an acronym for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, refers to maintenance of posture, fidgeting and other non-exercise activities of day-to-day life that burn calories. In an early study published in Science, James Levine, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, over-fed volunteers by 1000 calories per day for 8 weeks. He found that subjects who consumed calories in excess of what they needed to maintain their weight tended to increase their fidgeting and other NEAT activities, and consequently burned more calories.

Individual Differences

Some people increased their fidgeting, while others didn’t. Those who didn’t exhibited a 10-fold increase in fat storage compared to the fidgeters, as reported at Science. Those who fidget more by shaking their leg, repositioning themselves, standing up and walking around, and so forth can burn 350 more calories per day than their more sedentary counterparts, according to Levine at U.S. News & World Report.

Fidget Calories

Follow-up research by Levine, described at, found that those who are obese tend to be more sedentary. Thin subjects fidgeted more, tapped their toes, wiggled in their seats and stood and moved around more, burning more calories per day than the obese subjects.

Walk it Off

Simply shaking a leg, however, is not sufficient, cautions Levine, at U.S. News & World Report. He recommends that you intersperse standing, walking and moving about into your daily activities throughout the day. He found that on average, those who are lean spend 150 fewer minutes sitting than those who are obese.

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