Summary List Placement
From picture books and poetry to memoirs and newspapers, reading
is a lifelong habit that can have powerful benefits for your
Here are five proven health benefits of reading and tips to read
1. Reading strengthens connections in your brain
Reading facilitates new connections between different parts of
the brain. A small 2013 study found that reading a novel
increased communication between parts of the brain that control language processing.
It also created long term changes in the bilateral somatosensory
cortex, the part of the brain that processes sensory
Sabrina Romanoff, PhD, a clinical psychologist at
Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, says reading creates
neurons in the brain, a
process known as neurogenesis. Neurons are
cells that send messages and transmit information between
different areas in the brain.
“Reading material that requires thought, consideration, and
effort to metabolize what’s being described leads to the creation
of new neurons in your brain,” Romanoff says. “These neurons also
increase new neuronal connections, both with each other and older
networks, which accelerates processing speed.”
2. Reading prevents age-related cognitive decline
Cognition includes the ability
to learn, remember, and make judgments. Attention and memory are
the two aspects of cognitive functioning most likely to be affected by
age. Scientists believe reading can reduce age-related
cognitive decline and protect cognitive function.
A large 14-year study published in
2020 found those who read one or more times a week were less
likely to have cognitive decline at 6-year and 14-year intervals.
After 14-years, older people who read more often had a reduced
risk of cognitive decline compared to those who read less
Reading is even associated with a lower risk of dementia. A very
large 2018 study in China tracked
people aged 65 and older over the course of five years and found
late-life participation in intellectual activities like reading
was associated with a lower risk of dementia several years
3. Reading reduces stress levels
Research has found reading for just 30 minutes can reduce the
physical and emotional signs of stress.
A small 2009 study of full-time undergraduate
students compared the effects of yoga, humorous videos, and
reading on stress levels. It found students who read news
articles for 30 minutes experienced a decrease in physical
markers of stress, like heart rate and blood pressure, compared
to before they began the activity. They also had lower scores on
The study concluded “neutral” reading material, or material that
doesn’t elicit a strong emotional feeling, is relaxing, and
decreases arousal of the sympathetic nervous system which
directs the body’s response to
stressful situations and danger. However,
reading the news may not be relaxing for everyone. Instead, you
can opt for novels, short stories, or other reading
4. Reading may even help you live longer
Not only is reading beneficial for brain health, but it is also
linked to a longer life. A large 12-year study published in
2017 found reading books is
associated with a 20% reduction in risk of mortality compared to
those who didn’t read books.
Reading may not cause you to live longer on its own, but it might
be associated with an overall healthy lifestyle and a lower risk
of early death.
5. Reading improves memory and concentration
While the brain isn’t a muscle, it still benefits from exercise.
Similar to how lifting weights makes our bodies stronger, reading
is a cognitively demanding process that can strengthen memory and
When humans read, we create a “mental map” of written text.
This mental map helps us process words we are reading and aids in
knowledge recall and memory. Romanoff says a regular reading
routine helps the brain “practice” mental processes that
contribute to memory functioning.
“Our brains also mentally process written words as if we were
writing them,” Romanoff says. “These processes require mental
effort and concentration. With continued reinforcement, there is
a greater capacity for memory functioning.”
A 2013 study of elderly men and
women found people who participated in mentally challenging
activities like reading and writing had a slower rate of memory
decline earlier and later in life compared to those who did not
engage in such activities.
How to make reading a habit
Uma Naidoo, MD, a nutritional
psychiatrist and the director of nutritional & lifestyle
psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that the
easiest way to start reading more is to schedule it into your
“Like with any activity that promotes our better brain health —
such as how we eat, sleep, or exercise – we need to create space
for these,” Naidoo says. “Setting aside a half-hour or an hour,
for example, before bed or during an afternoon break could be a
good idea to make sure you are reading.”
Other tips to start reading more include:
- Keeping a book with you when traveling or commuting to work
- Reading the news every morning
- Reading books on topics you want to learn more about or are
- Reading a book before watching the movie version
- Getting a library card
- Be patient — reading, like any skill, takes time to
Reading is an entertaining activity that doubles as an exercise
for your brain. Reading, in general, can boost cognitive
functioning, improve memory, and is even linked to a longer
“Each and every time we learn something new our brain forms new
connections and neurons and makes existing neural pathways
stronger or weaker,” Naidoo says.
The Insidexpress is now on Telegram and Google News. Join us on Telegram and Google News, and stay updated.