I’m not a neurologist. But I know that experts, researchers and health professionals tout the power of reading for good brain health. As a reader, I am very intrigued and thrilled about the growing body of proof that spending several hours a day with my face planted in a book is, ahem, good for my health.
If you’re a reader like me, just take a look at all the ways that you can delight in the power of stories, learn about history or even open your current newspaper and get a brain workout.
- Reading Builds a Mental Reserve: According to the National Institute on Aging, finding ways to stimulate your brain, like reading, may protect it as you age. “Scientists think that such activities may protect the brain by establishing ‘cognitive reserve.’ They may help the brain become more adaptable in some mental functions, so it can compensate for age–related brain changes and health conditions that affect the brain.”
- Reading Preserves Brain Acuity: Reading may also divert symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other age-related mental deterioration. As cited by the Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, “Reading books and magazines, writing and participating in other mentally stimulating activities, no matter your age, can help to keep memory and thinking skills intact, a new study suggests. The findings add to growing evidence that mental challenges like reading and doing crossword puzzles may help to preserve brain health and stave off symptoms of Alzheimer’s in old age.”
- Reading Exercises the Brain: Dr. Andrew Weil is my go-to source for all things holistic and organic health. So, when I read one of his articles on how reading can provide a mental workout I added more to my daily regime. “Researchers in Chicago found that people who are cognitively active in old age are 2.6 times less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s than those who use their heads less. Stimulating activities include such routine habits as reading the newspaper, checking out and reading a library book, as well as playing chess, going to the theater and other mentally engaging pursuits.”
- Reading May Increase Longevity: Take your vitamins, eat well, exercise and read—the prescription for a long healthy life. Okay maybe it’s not that simple, but when researchers at the Yale School of Public Health reviewed “12 years of HRS data about the reading habits and health of more than 3,600 men and women over the age of 50, a hopeful pattern emerged: People who read books—fiction or nonfiction, poetry or prose—for as little as 30 minutes a day over several years were living an average of two years longer than people who didn’t read anything at all.”
- Reading Provides a Healthy Connection: One of the most important things we don’t always think about when it comes to good health is emotional connections. While reading has been proven to stave off mental decline, it also creates community which is vitally important for a happy and healthy life. We are social creatures. And even if you are the most introverted person in the world a good book can bring you into a community of those who share your passion. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Friends also play a significant role in promoting your overall health. Adults with strong social support have a reduced risk of many significant health problems, including depression, high blood pressure and an unhealthy body mass index (BMI).”
This brings me comfort. This also offers hope. There is proof and research that supports how reading can be very beneficial so it should no longer be considered a luxury of time. Rather it’s a prescription for long life filled with happiness and good health.