Too much sitting is already linked to a higher risk of anxiety disorder and certain types of cancer. Now you can throw liver disease into the mix, too. A new study out of South Korea finds those who spend at least 10 hours a day on their behinds have a 9% higher risk of developing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, than those who sit for less than five hours a day. The finding remained true even for those with a BMI of less than 23, which is considered normal. The study also found a link between NAFLD and exercise, as physically active participants were 20% less likely to develop the disease, author Seungho Ryu tells Live Science. But physical activity should replace sitting time, rather than attempt to make up for it. "Our findings suggest that both increasing participation in physical activity and reducing sitting time may be independently important in reducing the risk of NAFLD," a co-author says in a release.
It isn't clear how sitting affects the liver, but researchers say other health problems are unlikely to explain the link to NAFLD because the study was based on 139,000 generally healthy Koreans with an average age of 40. The findings are important because "the amount of time spent doing sedentary activity such as sitting at a computer or watching TV has increased dramatically in recent years," Ryu says. An expert suggests getting 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week or taking 10,000 steps per day. "The message is clear, our chairs are slowly but surely killing us," he says. "Our body is designed to move." About 19% of Americans suffer from NAFLD, which can cause the swelling and scarring of the liver, and most are forced to change their lifestyle. (Standing might not be so great, either.)