Sitting is deadly: Make like these 5 writers and stand while you work

A new study says sitting is nearly as deadly as smoking or obesity, and it can shave two years off your life. These famous writers must’ve known it was bad for them—or at least bad for their word count.

First, researchers told us that sitting for more than six hours a day will lead to a premature death. That’s what study after study said.

How long will sitting that long every day shorten your life? By two years, according to an analysis of five large studies on the topic.

“[Sitting is] right in the same ballpark as smoking and obesity—sedentary behavior is in the same category,” Louisiana State University’s Peter Katzmarzyk, who is lead author of the paper, says in U.S. News and World Report. “Smoking is still the No. 1 risk factor [for early death], but sitting is catching up.”

Catching up? Sitting down is on par with inhaling toxic smoke into your lungs?

Maybe it’s time to finally build that standing desk—which is nothing new for some writers. In fact, many famous authors penned their best works while vertical. Here are five of them (and their ages of death or current ages). Although judging by a couple of the scribes on this list, standing didn’t help them live longer lives. Nevertheless, based on the new findings, it might be best to stand for at least a little bit more each day.

1. Ernest Hemingway.
(Pictured above.) The habit of standing to write is one that Hemingway “had from the beginning,” explained George Plimpton in an interview with the author. “He stands in a pair of his oversized loafers on the worn skin of a lesser kudu—the typewriter and the reading board chest-high opposite him … moving only to shift weight from one foot to another.” Hemingway was 61 when he committed suicide.

2. Vladimir Nabokov.
The Russian author, who wrote books in both his native tongue and in English, not only stood while he worked, but also did his writing on index cards. Nabokov’s best-known work, Lolita, is ranked No. 4 in the list of the Modern Library 100 Best Novels. He lived to age 78.

3. Philip Roth. Considered one of America’s greatest living authors, Roth stands at a lectern to write and paces while he thinks, claiming to walk half a mile for every page he writes. Roth is 79.

4. Lewis Carroll.
The author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass suffered from numerous maladies, including migraines and epilepsy later in life. He also suffered a knee injury in middle age, which left him stiff and awkward, according to accounts. Still, he stood to write. That’s dedication. He was 65 when he died.

5. Thomas Wolfe. This almost seems like a tall tale (pun intended—you’ll see what I mean). The author of Look Homeward, Angel was “a very tall fellow,” who wrote standing up in his kitchen, according to Wikipedia. He reportedly used the top of his refrigerator as his work surface. He died 18 days shy of his 38th birthday.

Part of this story first appeared on PR Daily in May 2011.


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