October is National Book Month – another fantastic opportunity to celebrate reading and all its benefits, especially for older adults. While escaping into a good story is benefit enough, current research has found several positive physical and cognitive effects. Check out these five positive benefits:
Improved brain functions
One of the most discussed positives of reading is its ability to improve your cognitive skills. Research published in “Neurology” in 2013 suggests reading books – along with writing and engaging in other brain-stimulating activities – slows down cognitive decline in old age. While it focused on life-long reading, results also found that any reading was better than none and that remaining a bookworm in old age reduced rate of memory decline by 32 percent.
Another study found older adults active in brain-related hobbies such as reading were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. “The brain is an organ, just like every other organ in the body. It ages in regard to how it is used,” lead author Dr. Robert Friedland told USA Today. “Just as physical activity strengthens the heart muscle and bones, intellectual activity strengthens the brain against disease.”
It’s easy to lose yourself in a book and lose track of time. That concentration also helps lower your stress levels! In fact, a 2009 study at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom found reading for just six minutes a day could reduce stress levels by up to 68 percent. Another study found 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate and distress as effectively as yoga.
Good Night Sleep
There are plenty of medicines to help you sleep at night, but one of the easiest assists is to pick up your favorite book and read just before bedtime. While sleep specialists suggest you read in a room other than your bedroom, the Mayo Clinic suggests reading as part of a regular sleep routine. As noted earlier, reading is calming and can signal the body it is time to relax.
A good book allows you to escape into another world, following other lives and adventures. This also lets you leave your own worries behind. As you encounter other lives through literature, you also experience empathy for other places, thoughts and beliefs. All these can improve how you view your own life.
“Research has shown that people who read for pleasure regularly report fewer feelings of stress and depression than non-readers,” According to Sue Wilkinson, the former CEO of The Reading Agency, a charity that develops and delivers programs to encourage people to read more.
But maybe our favorite benefit of reading is its ability to help you live longer. 2017 research from “Innovation in Aging” found that people who read more than 3 ½ hours per week were 23 percent more likely to live longer than those who didn’t read at all.
So take some time this month to pick out a new book – or pick up a treasured favorite – find a comfortable chair and read to your health’s content.
Looking for a good book? Check out these this list of books for all ages