Does Shaking Your Leg Burn Calories? – Restless Minds

Shaking Your Leg

Have you ever found yourself shaking your leg while sitting at your desk, waiting for a bus, or even while watching TV? This common habit, often dismissed as a sign of restlessness or impatience, has sparked curiosity among many.

The question on everyone’s mind is, “Does shaking your leg burn calories?” The answer is yes, but the number of calories burned might not be as significant as you’d expect.

The Science

shaking legs

Shaking your leg is a form of fidgeting, and like all physical activities, it does burn calories. This phenomenon is part of what’s known as Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). NEAT refers to the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks, and fidgeting.

In a study conducted by James Levine, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, it was 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.

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. 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.

How Many Calories Does Shaking Burn?

Legs calories burning

The exact number of calories burned by shaking your leg depends on how long and how vigorously you do it. On average, you can expect to burn between 50 to 400 calories a day from leg shaking. However, it’s important to note that leg shaking is not an easily measured form of exercise, so it’s not a good substitute for a diet and health plan. If you’re looking to burn calories, periods of dedicated exercise are your best option.

One study found that fidgeting such as swinging your arms or tapping your foot while sitting increases energy expenditure, on average, by 2.6kJ (0.62 Calories) per minute. If you bounce your leg the entire time you’re at work (8 hours = 480 minutes), you will burn an extra 300 calories.

Can You Lose Weight?

weight loss

While shaking your leg does burn some calories, it’s not a reliable method for weight loss. Shaking your leg nonstop for an hour will only burn between 30 and 50 calories. Furthermore, fidgeting activities like leg shaking are typically actions you don’t concentrate on. You may shake your leg more or less some days, so it will be hard to know how many calories you’ve burned.

The Best Way to Burn Calories

If you’re looking to burn calories and lose weight, incorporating regular exercise into your schedule is the most effective strategy. By adding aerobic exercise, such as running on a treadmill for simply 15 minutes, into your daily activities, you’ll burn more calories. This study suggests that weight loss is achieved by performing concentrated exercise that burns 300 or more calories at least 3 times per week.

Is Shaking Bad for Your Health?

bad for health

There is very little evidence that suggests shaking your leg while you sit is bad for you. Like most forms of fidgeting, it’s a harmless activity. If you’re one of the people who fidgets naturally, it may be a natural process that helps you pay attention. The bonus of being a fidgeter is that you’ll burn a few extra calories throughout the day.

Tips and Tricks: Burning Calories by Fidgeting More Effectively

While fidgeting isn’t a replacement for regular exercise, it can still contribute to your daily calorie burn. Here are some tips and tricks to help you maximize the calories burned through fidgeting:

Embrace the Fidget

Fidget Toys

If you’re a natural fidgeter, don’t suppress it. Allow yourself to tap your feet, shake your leg, or move around in your seat. These small movements can add up over time and contribute to your daily calorie burn.

Stand More

Standing burns more calories than sitting. If possible, consider getting a standing desk or make a habit of standing while talking on the phone or during meetings.

Take Regular Breaks

If your job involves sitting for long periods, make sure to take regular breaks. Stand up, stretch, walk around, or do some light exercises. This not only helps burn calories but also improves your overall health and productivity.

Use a Fitness Tracker

Fitness Trackers

A fitness tracker can help you monitor your daily activity levels. Some trackers can even detect fidgeting movements and add them to your daily calorie burn.

Incorporate More NEAT Activities

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) activities like walking to the store, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or doing household chores can significantly increase your daily calorie burn.

Stay Hydrated

drinking water

Drinking water can boost your metabolism, helping you burn more calories throughout the day. Plus, the act of drinking and refilling your water bottle can add to your fidgeting movements.

Fidget While Watching TV

Instead of sitting still while watching TV, try doing some light exercises, stretching, or even just fidgeting in your seat.

Try a Fidget Toy

Fidget toys, like stress balls or fidget spinners, can keep your hands busy and help you burn a few extra calories.

Remember, while fidgeting can contribute to your daily calorie burn, it’s not a substitute for regular exercise and a balanced diet. Always strive for a healthy lifestyle that includes a variety of physical activities and nutritious foods.


Does it burn calories?

Yes, shaking your leg does burn calories. This is a form of fidgeting, and all physical activities, including fidgeting, burn calories. However, the number of calories burned is relatively small.

Can I lose weight?

While shaking your leg does burn some calories, it’s not a significant amount and is unlikely to lead to substantial weight loss on its own. Regular exercise and a balanced diet are the most effective strategies for weight loss.

Is shaking your leg bad for your health?

There’s no evidence to suggest that shaking your leg is bad for your health. In fact, it’s a form of fidgeting that can help you burn a few extra calories. However, if leg shaking is accompanied by other symptoms or is due to an underlying condition like Restless Leg Syndrome, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

Why do people shake their legs?

People shake their legs for various reasons. It can be a simple habit, a way to release nervous energy or boredom, or it could be a symptom of a condition like ADHD or Restless Leg Syndrome.

How many calories can I burn?

The exact number of calories burned by shaking your leg depends on the duration and intensity of the shaking. On average, you can expect to burn between 50 to 400 calories a day from leg shaking.

Can I increase my calorie burn by shaking both legs?

Technically, yes. Shaking both legs would likely burn more calories than shaking just one. However, the difference may not be significant, and it’s important to remember that leg shaking is not a substitute for more intense forms of exercise.


In conclusion, while shaking your leg does burn some calories, it’s not a significant source of energy expenditure. It’s a mild form of activity that contributes to your total daily energy expenditure, but it’s not a substitute for regular, more intense physical activity.

So, even if you’ve got a restless leg, you still need to get to the gym to burn off excess calories.