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If you’re that person who is forever getting lost in the pages of your new book, go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back for having a really great hobby – the health benefits of which you’ll enjoy as you grow older. Reading is probably one of the most underrated pastimes, and the positive impact it has on your mind and brainpower, emotional stability, and stress levels make it worthwhile. Read on to find out why reading can increase your longevity too.

1. Reading expands your mind

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According to a study done at the University of California, Berkeley, children’s books can increase kids’ vocabulary in a big way. That is because the brain of a child reading a book is being exposed to 50% more words than if the same amount of time were to be spent watching a television show or listening to a conversation.

Also, the act of reading engages more brain matter than processing information through looking at images of listening to speech, thereby providing a more intense brain workout, if you will. This makes for greater ease in studying later on, as well as improved spelling ability and higher intelligence.

2. It can help fight Alzheimer’s disease

Because reading keeps the brain active, those who read have a decreased chance of suffering from cognitive decline later in life. In fact, an article published by the American National Academy of Sciences states that activities such as working on puzzles, playing chess, and reading result in a 2.5% decrease in risk for Alzheimer’s, as opposed to those who don’t keep their minds active.

According to Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University and author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain, reading offers a particular richness that is unique to this activity and works complex brain waves. “It’s an opportunity to probe more than any other medium I know of. Reading is about not being content with the surface.”

3. It literally results in improved longevity

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How does a 23% increased survival rate sound? These were the results from one study, in particular, carried out in part by the Yale University School of Public Health and published in the journal of Social Science and Medicine. It was found that adults who read books on a regular basis lived approximately 2 years longer than those who didn’t read. The researchers analyzed the data of 3635 American men and women aged 50 and older – who formed part of the Health and Retirement Study -and at the study baseline, the participants provided a self-report on their reading habits.

According to Medical News Daily, the researchers followed up for an average of 12 years, monitoring their survival. The participants who read books for up to 3.5 hours per week had a 17% decrease in risk of dying as opposed to non-readers, over the course of the 12-year follow-up. And for those who read more than that, the results showed a 23% chance of living longer.

4. It reduces stress and helps you sleep better

I personally struggle to fall asleep without enjoying a few pages from my newest book – and going book hunting on old sales is a favorite pastime. Now, studies are showing that not only can reading help to reduce stress by as much as 68%, but the habit of reading before you go to bed can signal to the body that it’s time to unwind and sleep, as found by the Mayo Clinic. Be sure to read from good light and on paper, however, or you can experience the opposite, as blue light prevents the secretion of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Want to know more?

Click on the link to find out why you should avoid stress as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s.

Johane du Toit

Johane du Toit

Johané du Toit is the Health Writer at Longevity Magazine. With an Honours degree in journalism from the North-West University at Potchefstroom, she has a keen interest in medical and scientific innovations and aspires to provide the public with the latest reliable news in the fields of medicine, fitness, wellness, and science. Johane is happiest outdoors, preferably near a large body of water or in the mountains, and loves waterskiing, cooking, travelling and reading.

The content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.