The 'nervous habit' that could literally save your life

There's something we all have in common that's quietly killing us -- and it's something we do every day, often for hours at a time.

Most folks have no clue just how dangerous sitting is. But the science is crystal clear here: the more you sit, the higher your risk of chronic disease.

It doesn't matter where or why. Whether you're parked behind a desk at work or curled up on the sofa with a book, sitting slows your metabolism to a crawl and exposes you to the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even death.

Not even daily exercise can undo the damage of sitting. But new research finds one surprising thing that you're not going to believe can. It's a "nervous habit" that drives some folks nuts: fidgeting.

The study of British women who work in offices finds, just as we expect, that sitting for seven or more hours a day will increase the risk of death from all causes by 30 percent when compared to women who sit five hours or less.

But not every woman at a desk job faces the same risk.

Those who have high to moderate levels of fidgeting are protected from that death risk, even when they sit all day long.

So if you're a little restless when you sit -- if you tap your leg or drum your fingers -- it might get on the nerves of whoever's sitting next to you, but keep right on doing it. Because it turns out fidgeting is actually a healthy habit than could help keep you alive.

But while the study shows it can help you to overcome the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, research also finds you shouldn't count on foot-tapping alone to save your bacon. Make sure to get up and get moving too.

So let me give you two tips.

First, if you spend much of the day parked in a seat, stand up and stretch your legs and move your muscles every hour or so.

And second, don't forget to give yourself a longer session of movement each day. Whether it's a stroll around the block or a bike ride through the hills, it's all exercise -- and it can all help keep you alive.