Why chilling on the sofa … for too long … is bad for you

A major new and innovative campaign, combining a unique mix of art and science, will get people thinking about their health in a revolutionary way and will turn people’s perceptions of chilling on the sofa on its head.

Fidget ProjectIntegral to the Fidget campaign is a highly interactive canopy housing an arts experience, created by award-winning artist Michael Pinsky, which fuses with science in an engaging series of game zones in order to explain the science behind sitting on our backsides. Each of the six zones will encourage people to try simple activities for themselves and learn about the difference that even moderate movement can make.

Fidget, run by London Arts in Health Forum (LAHF) and funded and supported by the Wellcome Trust, will challenge the nation’s understanding of our love affair with the sofa, the telly and introduce us all to the quirky science of sitting.

Fidget is a new way of helping people to understand the facts about physical activity and the way it affects our health. It makes clear that increasing activity through simple things throughout the day can start to make a difference to all of our health.

Sports and exercise registrar, sofa expert and inspiration for the Fidget project Dr Wilby Williamson, says the interactive nationwide tour offers real benefits for the ‘sofa-chilling nation’.

“There is science behind sitting on the sofa and people can improve their lifestyles by doing something as simple as wiggling.  The pop up will get people excited about moving and shaking as they go about their daily lives in order to reduce cardiovascular and other problems.


“We all know we should move more but most of us do nothing about it. On the whole modern living isn’t physically demanding. Fidget is aiming to instil an understanding of the impact of the benefit of incremental movement.”

Online charity YouthNet, who provide online advice and guidance for young people, have developed the online element to the Fidget campaign and will run a viral competition to encourage people to get active. The ‘00:22’ challenge will be promoted via video, social media and on YouthNet’s guide to life for young people, TheSite.org, and challenges people to come up with innovative ways that they can introduce simple activity in to their daily routine, starting with 22 minutes per day.

Fidget will debut at Granary Square, Kings Cross, London on Thursday, 28 June at 9am before going on a nationwide tour of festivals, public spaces and other events this summer including Skegness,

Edinburgh, Bradford, Bristol, Taunton, Gateshead and London Broadgate (see full schedule below) giving visitors the opportunity to wiggle at will.

Background to the campaign

Fidget is launched against the backdrop of concerns about an increasingly sedentary lifestyle in part driven by new technology and doing things such as watching television.  The Trends in Television Report published in early 2012 by Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB) indicates Britons watch around 30 hours a week, or over four hours a day.

There have been a series of studies and reports over recent years clearly establishing that the individuals who are more physically active throughout the day enjoy higher cardiovascular fitness and that even moderate levels of physical activity can help people live longer lives.

The World Health Organisation rates physical inactivity as the 4th leading cause of death with approximately 3.2 million deaths globally each year.

The current projection from the Foresight¹ study is that diseases of lifestyle will become an ever increasing burden.  Currently 24% of the population are obese and 5% percent of the population diabetic. With an aging population unless there is a dramatic change in our societal trends it is estimated that by 2050 60% of the UK population will be obese and 25% diabetic.

In the US in particular where they have undertaken extensive studies, evidence from the Surgeon General indicates that cumulative physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease by 40%, lowers the risk of stroke by 27 %, reduces the incidences of high blood pressure by almost 50% and diabetes by about 50% and can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by over 30%.

“Fidget will redefine what it means to be a winning mover and shaker in 2012. Our environments and homes are designed to save human energy expenditure and increasingly our occupations are no longer physically demanding.

“By growing public understanding of the science of sedentary behaviour, Fidget will give people the tools to understand lifestyle choices.There is science behind sitting on the sofa and people can improve their lifestyles by doing something as simple as wiggling,” Dr Williamson concludes.

Notes to editors

¹ Since its creation in 1994, the Foresight Programme has helped the Government to think systematically about the future.

Some fascinating facts and figures:

  • In 1900 there were 8000 cars registered in the UK now there are over 31 million on the roads
  • In 1955 36% of homes had a television today that figure is 97% of homes
  • In 1965 the first commercially available microwave came on the market,  today 90% of homes have a microwave
  • In 1988 17.2 % of homes had a PC, now over 78% of homes have internet. 

Full list of events:

  • London Kings Cross, June 28
  • Skegness, June 30-1 July
  • Edinburgh, July 3-6
  • Bradford, July 7-9
  • London Broadgate, July 16-18
  • Bristol, July 20-21
  • Taunton, July 23-24
  • Camp Bestival, July 26-29
  • Gateshead, August 4-6
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