Modern Sitting Furniture and the Obesity Epidemic

In places in the world where sitting furniture with a firm seat is still used, there is still no problem of overweight and obesity and there are still far less incidences of certain types of diseases that to an epidemical proportion affects the industrialized world.


Sitting for a significant amount of time on modern sitting furniture will result in adverse musculoskeletal changes.

Adverse musculoskeletal changes cause excessive weight gain.


Until recently, even in the western industrialized world, sitting furniture consisted mainly of chairs or benches with a solid seat surface. Just a few decades ago, upholstered sitting furniture’s like the arm chair, sofa and couch were uncommon household furniture’s.

Just a few decades ago in most parts of the developing world, the sitting furniture consisted of a simple seat with three or four legs and no back or arm rest. Till recently in most parts of the world, the sofa, couch, armchair and even the chair fitted with a backrest, was a luxury that just a small percentage of the population was able to afford.

Already for a many centuries, the majority of the world’s populations were using chairs with a wooden seat and wooden benches, and in the last few decades huge changes have happened.

Not so long ago, even in the industrialized world, the upholstered furniture was affordable only to rich people. Nowadays, due to the advancement in technology, production and economic prosperity, it is available to a great percentage of the world’s population.

Nowadays, everywhere in the world economic prosperity is followed by replacing traditional sitting furniture with modern sitting furniture. The traditional sitting furniture, which mostly consisted of wooden chairs and wooden benches, is replaced with a chair with an upholstered seat surface, like sofa, arm chair, couch, etc.

The production technology that made most of today’s upholstered sitting furniture is different from the manufacturing technology that was used just a few decades ago. Just a few decades ago, all upholstered sitting furniture was made using spring systems. Expensive sitting furniture was made using eight-way hand-tied springs that offer a firmer seat. Less expensive sitting furniture was made using sinuous springs that offers a softer seat.

Nowadays, seats of less costly sitting furniture aren’t made with spring systems (not eight-way hand-tied springs nor sinuous springs) but they are only stuffed or padded with soft fuelling, mostly with polyurethane foam. Instead of spring systems that are still used by expensive sitting furniture, the upholstery of the cheap sitting furniture consists of high density polyurethane foams wrapped in fabrics that provides far softer seats compared with the sitting furniture that is made by using the spring system.

Nowadays, only the expensive sitting furniture is made using spring systems and it is mostly affordable to the more affluent population.

The less costly chair, sofa, couch and armchair is upholstered by using polyurethane foam that provides a far softer seat is mostly affordable to the less affluent population.

Till recently, a big percentage of chairs and benches were made without back support and nowadays, almost every chair and bench is made with a back support.

Nowadays, it is less and less common for chairs to have a firm surface of the seat and most chairs have a soft upholstered seat.

Not only were old-style sitting furniture’s replaced with the less costly version of modern sitting furniture’s in households, but in public places like schools, universities, restaurants, etc., chairs with a firm seat surface are replaced with the less costly version of sitting furniture that have a soft upholstered seat.

In recent decades, food and life styles didn’t change too much compared to the changes that sitting furniture’s underwent.

A few decades ago, most overweight and obese people were part of the rich population. On the other side, a few decades ago only the rich population could afford upholstered sitting furniture. But still, severe obesity was rare and morbid obesity was non-existent, and one reason for that is that the seats of the upholstered sitting furniture were far less soft compared to today’s cheap version of upholstered sitting furniture.

a) Nowadays, the expensive upholstered furniture is made by using the same technology that was used a few decades ago.

b) Nowadays, the prevalence of obesity among the affluent population is not much different than what was the case a few decades ago. One of the reasons for that is that they still use sitting furniture that is manufactured using the same system that was used a few decades ago.

Nowadays, in the developed world, the most obese, particularly morbidly obese people are mostly found among the less affluent population.  One of the reasons for that is because they mostly use the less costly modern sitting furniture.

In times where sitting furniture was made mainly from wood without upholstering and mostly without back support, at the same time among the poor and the middle class population, obesity was unknown. At those times, the problem among the less affluent population was mostly being underweight and not overweight, and severe obesity or morbid obesity was extremely rare.

  1. A few decades ago, there emerged a new technology of producing upholstered sitting furniture using polyurethane foam.
  2. A few decades ago, the problem of obesity emerged in such proportions and severity that had been unknown to any previous generation.

In the developed world, modern less costly sitting furniture is the main factor that has caused the less affluent population to be affected with overweightness and obesity to a far greater extent than the rich population.

Modern upholstered sitting furniture, particularly cheap versions that includes upholstered chair, armchair, sofa and couch are the main contributing factors for the increased prevalence of overweight and obesity throughout the world.

It is known that overweight and obese parents are more likely to have overweight and obese children. The main reason for that is that parents and children use the same sitting furniture.

The obesity epidemic is mainly caused by the widespread use of modern upholstered sitting furniture. Particularly, the less costly version of upholstered sitting furniture is the main cause for the obesity epidemic and it is one of the main factors that are responsible for the higher rate of obesity among the less affluent population.

Regular or increased physical activity is not enough to counteract to the adverse consequences of prolonged sitting on the modern style of upholstered sitting furniture. Dietary intervention for weight management makes the problems worse.


In households where the sitting furniture is equipped with firm seats and without armrest or back rest, obesity among children and young adults is non-existent.


How modern upholstered sitting furniture is responsible for excessive fat formation around the abdomen is explained in the article: “The Shape of Modern Upholstered Sitting Furniture and Abdominal Weight Gain”.