8 surprising benefits of reading

For some, the chance to ‘curl up with a good book’ is the highlight of every vacation. For others, the snazzy animations and videos of the modern age have made reading seem like a pointless chore. But did you know that reading regularly can help you cope with stress, fight depression and even make you live longer and sleep better? Read on –ahem– to discover some more of the amazing and often surprising benefits of this simple activity.

Reading lowers your risk of developing Alzheimer’s and dementia

Even if you’re genetically predisposed to diseases like Alzheimer’s and know they run in your family, reading can help you beat the odds. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that people who read and participated in mentally challenging activities the most often, both early and late in life, showed slower memory decline than those who didn’t – even if they had physical evidence of the disease in their brains. It’s believed this is because reading can help build connections between cells in the brain, making the overall system more resilient. So if you want to be sharp as a tack in your golden years, pick up a good book today!

Reading helps you get to sleep faster, and sleep better

This one is especially important if you’re one of the many people who find it difficult to ‘switch off’ your brain once your head hits the pillow at night. Using a book to escape to a different reality can help get your brain ready for sleep and dreaming. Another big advantage is that it stops you staring at bright, backlit screens – which can interfere with your body’s natural internal clock and fool you into thinking it’s still daytime.

And an added benefit of better sleep? It makes it easier to lose weight. Any keen reader will attest to the power of a good book before bedtime – so make sure to keep one on the nightstand. Sites like Bala Kudu Books have an impressive range of options and titles to choose from – whether you’re into the latest fiction, the great classics, or more academic fare. 

Reading with your kids can help them get a better job when they’re older

If you’re a parent, it’s time to get reading for the sake of your kids. Studies have shown that children as young as six months who read regularly with their parents score higher on intelligence tests, show stronger literacy skills than their peers, and may even land better jobs when they’re older.

Reading can help you live longer

A famous 2016 Yale University study found that –you guessed it– those who read regularly consistently live longer than their non-reading counterparts. And we’re not talking some barely statistically significant percentage here – on average, those who read live a full 23 months longer.

Reading improves general knowledge and vocabulary

Even in the very lightest of light reading material, you’re bound to stumble across a concept, word, turn of phrase or piece of data you’ve never encountered before. And because books give the reader a lot more context and background than a short piece of writing, you’ll probably pick up what that word or phrase means even without having to look it up. This means you expand your knowledge and vocabulary without even realizing it.

Reading can boost your EQ

By their very nature, books ask the reader to put themselves in another person’s shoes – and this can be extremely enlightening if the character in question lives a very different life, and perhaps holds very different beliefs from your own. Barack Obama perhaps explains how reading can be good for developing empathy:

When I think about how I understand my role as citizen…the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels.”

The likes of Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett agree.

Reading can ease depression and anxiety

The idea of ‘bibliotherapy’ may have been around since 1916, but doctors are taking it a little more seriously these days – asking patients with mild to moderate depression to swing past the library and not just the pharmacy. Aside from making it clear to patients that their situation is not unique and that they’re not alone in their suffering, they may find reading about a character’s healing process and recovery extremely cathartic themselves.    

Reading can… make you a better reader

While all of the above is great news to those who are already avid readers, not everyone finds the act of reading easy or natural. The good news is that practice really does make perfect – actually altering the physical structure of the brain. A Carnegie Mellon University study demonstrated that children taking part in 100 hours of remedial reading training actually improved the integrity of the white matter in their brains – enabling them to become better and better readers. The key, no matter how old you are, is not to give up and keep building on your skills every day.

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