Stephanie Smith: At ease, middle-aged men - you have permission to sit down

Excellent news this week for middle-aged overweight men who like nothing better than to sit on the sofa all day long, watching the footie (purely as an aside, my husband brought this particular newsflash to my attention, rather like a cat with a twitching blackbird).

Ed Balls and his dancing partner Katya at The Dance Studio, Leeds
Ed Balls and his dancing partner Katya at The Dance Studio, Leeds

Anyway, I digress. The point is, it turns that men whose torso resembles a beer barrel rather than a six-pack are actually healthier than their leaner and apparently fitter gym-loving brothers. And – get this – they are more attractive to women.

This is according to Professor Richard Bribiescas of Yale University, USA, who has published a ground-breaking study entitled How Men Age. In it, he sets forth his “pudgy dad hypothesis”, explaining that mature chaps with spare tyres and man-boobs are better at passing on their genes (should anyone want them).

In contrast, being macho is just not healthy, says the Prof. “The Hollywood image of the swaggering, dashing man dispatching bad guys and carrying the day conjures up a perception of indestructability.”

But it’s self-defeating, he says, because it means that men do not take care of themselves, and so find it harder to fight infection and illness, which can impact greatly on the pace at which they age. That’s Daniel Craig, Will Smith, Robert Downey Jnr told then. They need to start taking it easy, and then women might start finding them attractive.

To be fair, the Prof’s reasoning is backed by a study which finds that men who burn more calories at rest are 50 per cent more likely to die than those with a slower metabolism, which is very bad news for any man who actually uses his Fitbit properly.

Meanwhile, other research has shown that men who are slightly overweight can be less at risk of heart attacks and prostate cancer because they have lower testerone levels. With the added benefits that they are less likely to have affairs and more likely to look after children and be house-husbands (although it doesn’t say whether they are more likely to clean bathrooms and arrange cushions properly, which really would be a bonus).

There could be something in all this. Perhaps it’s the reason why Ed Balls is doing so well in Strictly, because really, women fancy him more than Greg or Danny or Ore, or even Pasha or Brendan or Aljaz?

Although, if true, there might be a simple explanation. If the women who prefer overweight sofa-surfing men just happen to be overweight sofa-surfers too, well, it all makes for a much easier and less guilty life. No one wants a smug gym bunny for a partner. Pass the biscuit tin.