Shocking ways reading improves your health!
Updated: Apr 10
I was literally SHOCKED to learn that in just 10 minutes you can start to improve memory functioning, lower blood pressure, sleep better, reduce the chance of Alzheimers, live longer, and more! But how? Read on… (see that you’re already starting! 🙂)
Millions of people everyday are hitting the gym, eating more vegetables, cutting back on sugars or alcohol… all while overlooking a simple exercise that can drastically improve overall health. READING! As an author, obviously I would recommend reading to everyone, but recently I became curious and wondered if there are other benefits reading has on our overall physiology. The scientific answer is a resounding “yes”! And what’s more is that these benefits can last a lifetime!
A recent study by the NIH followed 3,635 adult participants over the span of 12 years tracking daily activities and lifestyles. The study concluded that people who read 30 minutes a day were 23% likely to live longer than those who didn’t read at all. Read that again… (helping you practice!)
But how? Why? Below are the 4 key ways that reading benefits our health and promotes longevity.
1. Increase Brain Functioning In short, reading exercises the brain and may reduce the onset of neurological disorders as we age. Research has confirmed via MRI scans, that reading triggers a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain causing increased activity and function. Those networks get stronger and more sophisticated overtime, showing that a daily habit of reading provides a cumulative effect. In another study, researchers used functional MRI scans to measure the effects of reading and saw different areas of the brain lighting up with activity throughout the novel. The brain scans showed that throughout the reading period and for days afterward, brain connectivity increased, especially in the somatosensory cortex, the part of the brain that responds to physical sensations like movement and pain. The National Institute on Aging recommends reading books as a way of keeping the mind engaged as you grow older, since studies show that people who read every day maintain and can even improve their cognitive functioning. The earlier you start, the better. A 2013 study conducted by Rush University Medical Center found that people who’ve engaged in prolonged mentally stimulating activities were less likely to develop the plaques, lesions, and tau-protein tangles found in the brains of people with dementia!
2. Reduce Stress (and stress-induced illnesses) Reading is proven to reduce stress and promote a feeling of calm. Aside from the obvious mental benefits this also nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate, regulates digestion, reduces blood pressure and other stress-induced health problems. What else has this effect… yoga! In fact a group of researchers measured the effects of yoga and reading on the stress levels of students in demanding health science programs in the United States. The study found that 30 minutes of reading was just as effective as yoga at lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress. Even Doctors at the Mayo Clinic suggest reading as part of a regular routine to promote calm and improve sleep. They suggest for best results to choose a print book rather than reading on a screen, to avoid the blue light emitted by a device.
3. Help Alleviate Symptoms of Depression People with depression often feel isolated and estranged from everyone else, and that’s a feeling books can sometimes lessen. Regardless of the genre, reading fiction enables you to temporarily escape your own world of issues and problems, and become swept up in the imagined experiences of the characters. Non-fiction books can teach strategies that may help improve skills, expand the mind, or learn how to better manage a number of symptoms brought on by depression. Any book is a good book to read!
“Consolation from imaginary things is not an imaginary consolation.”
Sir Roger Scruton, British Philosopher
4. Increase Communication A 2019 poll showed that 69 percent of employers are looking to hire people with “soft” skills, like the ability to communicate effectively. Reading books is one of the best ways to increase your exposure to new words, learned in context, and expand not only your vocabulary but overall communication abilities. Better communication and having a considerable vocabulary size can influence many areas of your life, from scores on standardized tests to college admissions, more job opportunities, and even better relationships can be developed through better communication!
So whether it's for a half-hour at bedtime to wind down, sometime in the morning as the dawn breaks, or over a lunch break at work… put down your phone, turn off the television, and read – for the sake of your health! Perhaps to get started, find a book that interests you and try 10 minutes a day of uninterrupted reading. It's very, very good for you and there are all of these benefits aside from the sheer joy that reading can bring:
improves brain connectivity
increases your vocabulary and comprehension
empowers you to empathize with other people
aids in sleep readiness
lowers blood pressure and heart rate
fights depression symptoms
prevents cognitive decline as you age
contributes to a longer life
Until next time my friends, stay healthy and safe! 🙂