Does Reading Improve Health?

It does — mental health, physical health, and brain health.

by Carrie H. Kennedy Ph.D. for Psychology Today

When thinking about our well-being and taking care of ourselves, some things that we should do are harder than others. Reading is one of the easier ones. You can do it in your most comfortable clothes, in your most comfortable chair, or when the weather is terrible outside. You don’t need a membership or special equipment, and, well, you get the idea.

What follows are a number of ways in which reading can help maintain and improve health. For most of the items below, you can read anything you want for positive health effects. So, it doesn’t matter if you read a book about how to fish, a non-fiction account of a Civil War battle, a biography about a great coach, a classic work of fiction, or a who-done-it mystery. The more relevant, interesting, and enjoyable it is to you personally, the better.

Reading is a good stress management strategy.
Reading allows you to de-stress by unplugging and escaping. In one study, reading was found to be as effective as yoga and humor in reducing subjective feelings of stress over a 30-minute period, as well as objective measurements of systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DSP), and heart rate (HR). This means that reading impacts your physical as well as your psychological health. Note that a good old-fashioned book or a dedicated eBook reader is the best way to do this, but if you are using a tablet, phone, or computer on which to read, shut down other programs and turn off notifications. Distractions and disruptions interfere with reading’s stress management properties.

Reading protects brain health.
In a longitudinal study of individuals aged 64 and over, those who read at least once a week were less likely to experience cognitive decline than those who did not. At the 14-year mark of the study, and regardless of educational level, those who read more enjoyed greater protection. This effect is maintained into readers’ 80’s. Another study found that cognition in those over 80 was protected by activities such as reading.

Read more here.

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