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5 Benefits of Reading

A love of reading can protect your brain from Alzheimer’s disease, slash stress levels, encourage positive thinking and fortify friendships. Here’s how your brain and body benefit when you crack open a book.Reading about someone who overcame obstacles may motivate you to meet your own goals, Ohio State University researchers found. If you’d like a raise, following a character into the boss’s office may give you the courage to make the same request.

Reading gives your workout more staying power

Like the latest single from Lady Gaga or Real Housewives episode, books are also good company during a workout. A suck-you-in plot may keep you on an exercise machine longer to finish a captivating chapter, according to Weight Watchers magazine. Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University, told the magazine that in order to avoid neck or shoulder pain, readers should use the machine’s book ledge and try not to round their shoulders while working out.

Reading keeps your brain young

Digging into a good book can literally take years off your mind, according to a recent study from Rush University Medical Center as reported by Prevention. Adults who spent their downtime doing creative or intellectual activities (like reading) had a 32 per cent slower rate of cognitive decline later in life than those who did not. “Brainy pursuits make the brain more efficient by changing its structure to continue functioning properly in spite of age-related neuropathologies,” Robert S. Wilson, PhD, professor of neuropsychology at Rush University Medical Center, told the magazine. Another recent study found that older adults who regularly read or play mentally challenging games like chess or puzzles are two and a half times less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease, reported ABC News.

Reading can melt away stress

Snuggling up with a good read tamps down levels of unhealthy stress hormones such as cortisol, Weight Watchers recently reported. In a British study, participants engaged in an anxiety-provoking activity and then either read for a few minutes, listened to music, or played video games. The stress levels of those who read dropped 67 per cent, which was a more significant dip than that of the other groups.

Reading boosts your vocabulary

Even if it’s been decades since you had to worry about the SATs, you can still use books to expand your mental dictionary. In fact, researchers estimate that we learn five to 15 per cent of all the words we know through reading, according to a Scholastic report. This is particularly important for children, whose vocabulary size is directly and dramatically related to the books they read.

Reading improves empathy

Stories provide life-changing perspective, say York University researchers. Getting wrapped up in the lives of characters strengthens your ability to understand others’ feelings. Seeing the world through the eyes of Jane Eyre, for example, may make it easier for you to relate to your sister-in-law’s viewpoint.