Always have a book to read? Pat yourself on the back, because you're already contributing to better emotional and mental health - from increasing memory and empathy to improving your sleep.
But if reading isn’t usually on the agenda, it might be time to pick up a good book and clear your schedule to reap the five surprising health benefits below.
1. t reduces stress – whilst it might not be the first thing you do when you want to de-stress, research by the University of Sussex suggests it’s the most relaxing way to wind down. The 2009 study monitored the stress levels of a group of volunteers who tried out different methods of relaxation. After six minutes of reading, their stress levels were reduced by 68%, compared to a 61% reduction from listening to music. According to test leader Dr David Lewis, the reason reading came out on top was due to its “escape-factor”.
2. It may increase your lifespan – in a study published in Social Science & Medicine, book readers had a 20% lower risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow up than other readers that stuck with magazines or newspapers.
3. It helps to reduce illness too – doctors have long used fiction and self-help books as a therapeutic tool to reduce symptoms of physical or mental illness. This tactic is known as bibliotherapy and has been used to treat everything from panic disorders and insomnia, to weight gain and stress.
4. It improves your memory – the more frequently you engage in cognitive activity, such as reading a great book, across your lifespan, the slower you will experience cognitive decline (including memory loss) as you age.
5. It boosts your brain power – not only does regular reading help make you smarter, but it can actually increase your brain power. Just like going for a jog exercises your cardiovascular system, reading regularly improves memory function by giving your brain a good work out. With age comes a decline in memory and brain function, but regular reading may help slow the process, keeping minds sharper for longer.