Prolonged sitting hours, as well as a lack of physical activity increase the prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), reveals a study of middle-aged Koreans.

The findings, once again, highlight the importance of reducing sitting time and enhancing physical activity to stay both, physically and mentally healthy.

Sedentary Behavior Could Literally Kill You

There are various advantages of being physically active, all amounting to a decrease in the incidence and mortality of many chronic diseases. Nevertheless, more than a half of an average person’s day includes sedentary activities, such as prolonged sitting, watching television, or using the computer.

Recently, there has been much talk about the detrimental effects of sedentary behavior irrespective of extra physical activity. Many epidemiologic studies have highlighted a link between sedentary lifestyles and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, insulin resistance, cardiovascular ailments, metabolic syndrome, cancer and ultimately death.

What’s disturbing is that these associations were also observed in patients engaged in moderate to vigorous levels of physical activity, suggesting that high levels of the latter alone do not protect against the risks associated with long hours of sedentary behavior.

Exploring Link Between Physical Inactivity and NAFLD

An association between physical activity and NAFLD has not been largely investigated in previous studies. In order to do so, researchers examined a link between sitting time and the level of physical activity in Korean men and women suffering from NAFLD. Records of about 140,000 Koreans were investigated, who had undergone a health examination between March 2011 and December 2013. The levels of sitting time and physical activity were assessed via the International Physical Activity Questionnaire Short Form (Korean version). Fatty liver was diagnosed using ultrasonography.

Sedentary Routine: A Major Cause Of Fatty Liver

Of the 140,000 people investigated, 40,000 had NAFLD. More importantly, it was seen that both, prolonged sitting hours and low levels of physical activity were independently associated with its prevalence. Surprisingly, these associations were also seen in patients with a BMI of less than 23, which is apparently considered to be healthy.

Seungho Ryu, PhD, MD, of the Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Kangbuk Samsung Hospital, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea, was the lead investigator. He suggested that increasing physical activity and reducing long sitting hours are both, individually significant in reducing the risk of developing NAFLD.

Could Our Chairs Really Be Killing Us?

According to Michael I. Trenell, PhD, Professor of Metabolism & Lifestyle Medicine at Newcastle University, UK, and an expert on how lifestyle effects health and overall well-being and chronic disease had this to say: “Data from the study adds to the potent and alarming evidence that long sitting hours and a lack of movement has significant negative effects on cardio-metabolic health”.

“Our body is designed to move. It isn’t surprising that sedentary behavior (low muscular activity) directly impacts our physiology. With a lack of approved drug therapies for NAFLD, lifestyle modifications remain the basis of primary clinical care. The challenge now is to ‘stand up’ – literally – and move for NAFLD”, concluded Professor Trenell. The study was published in the Journal of Hepatology.