Love a good book? 5 surprising health benefits of reading

Independent bookshop week celebrates independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. While the rise of internet shopping may be partly to blame for the lack of independent bookstores in our towns, there’s no getting away from the fact that many people still love to read.

Some people might have fond memories of being read to as a child or you might like to end your day with a couple of chapters from a favourite book.

But reading is so much more, as you’re about to find out!

Live longer

According to The University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement study,  people who read books for 30 minutes a day, live, on average, two years longer than those who don’t read at all. Before you reach for the tabloids, broadsheets or gossip magazines, the same research showed that book readers who reported more than three hours of reading each week were 23 percent less likely to die between 2001 and 2012 than their peers who read only newspapers or magazines!

So put down the tabloids, broadsheets and gossip magazines and pick up a book instead.

Prevent dementia

Reading is like a gym session for your brain! According to the American Academy of Neurology, regular reading can help slow the process of declining memory and brain function as you get older.

In tests, nearly 300 people answered questions about whether they read books or took part in other mentally stimulating activities at different times in their lives. They also had their thinking and memory measured over a number of years.

Once the volunteers died, their brains were examined at autopsies for evidence of the physical signs of dementia. Results showed that those who participated in mentally stimulating activities both early and late in life had a slower rate of decline in memory compared to those who did not.

The study found that the rate of decline was reduced by 32 percent in people with frequent mental activity in late life, compared to people with average mental activity.

Reduce stress

Your preferred method of relaxing at the end of a stressful day might be to listen to music or go for a walk, but according to Sussex University, losing yourself in a good book is the ultimate relaxation!

This fascinating research tested various methods of stress relief including listening to music, taking a walk and playing video games.

The results showed that volunteers only needed to read for six minutes to reduce their stress levels by 68 per cent, resulting in reduced muscle tension and slower heart rate.

Playing video games reduced stress levels by 21 per cent, but raised heart rates. Taking a walk reduced stress levels by 42 per cent, and listening to music reduced levels by 61 per cent.

In addition, a commissioned study for the Reading Agency discovered, that 41% of the population find reading to be a better cure for everyday worries than a night out with friends. [source]

Make better life decisions

The University of Liverpool discovered that one fifth of readers have been motivated to take better care of their health after reading a book and 19% of adults have been inspired to take up a new hobby.

In addition, 27% of the population have been inspired to make a positive change in their lives, such as leaving a bad relationship or searching for a new job, after reading.

Sleep better

There’s a reason why many people try to get their young children into a daily routine of a warm bath and story before bed.

Lack of sleep effects 20% of people and can make us feel physically unwell as well as stressed and anxious. But help is on hand – quite literally!

In “The Great British Bedtime Report” The Sleep Council found that 39% of people who read before they go to bed, sleep very well. Remember though, this is real books, not a backlit e-reader – using these devices before bed can actually disrupt your sleep!

Support your local Independent Bookshop

Don’t forget to support your local Independent bookshop in the Forest of Dean; regardless of whether it’s Independent Bookshop Week or not. Remember that every £1 spent with a local supplier is worth £1.76 to the local economy, and only 36 pence if it is spent out of the local area. That makes £1 spent locally worth almost 400 % more to the local economy.

You can find your local shop by using the Bookshop Search. Type in your postcode and you’ll see who is local to you. During Independent Bookshop Week you might find reading groups, storytelling, author signings or literary lunches taking place. During the rest of the year, events, celebrations, reading groups, storytelling, author signings, literary lunches and face painting!

surprising health benefits of reading


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