The Scary Reason Why "Our Chairs Are Killing Us"

The treadmill desk just got a lot more appealing. 

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Photo by Siri Berting/Getty Images

We already know taking five at work is good for our health—and now we might want to add a walk to those breaks.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital and Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea, spending too many hours sitting—and not enough time exercising—may increase our risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a condition characterized by fat accumulating in the liver. While the condition doesn't usually cause symptoms or complications, it can result in liver inflammation and scarring or, in the worst case scenario, liver failure. The results of the study are published in the Journal of Hepatology.

The research was performed on 139,056 middle-aged male and female Koreans, all of whom had undergone a health examination between March 2011 and December 2013. The study authors assessed the participants’ physical activity level and sitting time using a short form questionnaire, and screened for fatty liver disease using ultrasonographic findings.

More than 28 percent (39,257) of the participants had NAFLD, and the researchers saw that both prolonged sitting time and decreased exercise were independently associated with the presence of the disease. Of particular note? It wasn't just overweight people that had NAFLD. The association occurred in people with a healthy body mass index (less than 23) as well. 

Other studies have linked being too much sitting with a myriad of scary health effects, including obesity and even death.

"The message is clear, our chairs are slowly but surely killing us," Michael I. Trenell, PhD, Professor of Metabolism & Lifestyle Medicine at Newcastle University, UK, said in a statement. "Our body is designed to move and it is not surprising that sedentary behavior, characterized by low muscle activity, has a direct impact on physiology... The challenge for us now is to 'stand up' and move for NAFLD, both physically and metaphorically."

But because we can't all trade our desk jobs for gym time, here are three easy ways to sneak in more exercise during the day. Another piece of good news? A different study suggests adding just two minutes of walking each hour could be enough to help thwart the negative health effects of sitting.