The mental and physical benefits of reading a book

Posted on: 4/03/2021

Reading has long been a popular pastime that all generations can enjoy, but did you know that there are many health benefits related to reading?

Here’s how reading books can change your brain — and your body — for the better.

1. Improves brain connectivity

Just like physical exercise for your cardiovascular system, reading regularly improves memory function by giving your brain a good workout. With age comes a decline in memory and brain function, but regular reading may help slow the process, keeping minds sharper longer, according to research. It has been found that frequent brain exercise was able to lower mental decline by 32 percent.

2. Helps you fall asleep

Creating a bedtime ritual, like reading before bed, signals to your body that it’s time to wind down and go to sleep. Reading a book is a great alternative to screen time if you want to relax. Screens like e-readers and tablets can actually keep you awake longer and affect your sleep.

3. Reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and heart rate

A scientific study found that just 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological distress just as effectively as other activities, such as yoga, did.

4. Fights depression symptoms                                                                                  

Reading fiction can allow you to temporarily escape your own world and become swept up in the imagined experiences of the characters, whereas non-fiction self-help books can teach you strategies that may help you manage symptoms.

The NHS has begun Reading Well – an initiative to support people in understanding and managing their own health and well-being through helpful reading lists. The books are all recommended by health experts, as well as people with lived experience of the conditions and topics covered and their relatives and carers. There are five book lists available:

  • Reading Well for mental health
  • Reading Well for young people
  • Reading Well for children                                                                        
  • Reading Well for dementia
  • Reading Well for long-term conditions

5. Prevents cognitive decline as you age

The National Institute on Aging recommends reading books and magazines as a way of keeping your mind engaged as you grow older. Although research hasn’t conclusively proven that reading books prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s, studies show that older people who read and solve math problems every day maintain and improve their cognitive functioning.