But a new study of more than 12,000 UK women suggests that those who claimed to fidget the most were apparently protected against the ravages of being seated. The women who sat still for hours on end were more likely to have died over the course of the study than those whose limbs tapped, wobbled and gently vibrated.

“Those of us who are more fidgety seem to have better long term health outcomes,” said Janet Cade, professor of nutritional epidemiology at the University of Leeds.

The findings suggest that work colleagues who are constantly tapping their feet might be encouraged to carry on rather than urged to stop, and that teachers might want to rethink their advice to similarly lively school children.

“It might be a good thing to fidget. I don’t think we are going to train people to fidget for health reasons, but it’s interesting that these small, active movements could be beneficial,” said Cade.