Cupid's Pulse Article: Expert Relationship Advice: 4 Ways Picking Up a Book Can Improve Your HealthCupid's Pulse Article: Expert Relationship Advice: 4 Ways Picking Up a Book Can Improve Your Health

By Amy Osmond Cook, Ph.D.

Oprah Winfrey does it. So does Reese Witherspoon, Bill Gates, Barack Obama, and Emma Watson. Not only are they world leaders and superstars, but they are also super readers.

Nearly 25 percent of Americans have not read a book in the last year, and adults over age 50 were more likely than their younger counterparts to let their books collect dust. While you may think you don’t have the time to read a good book, you might want make reading a higher priority in your life.

Reading isn’t just a fun way to pass the time. It can also improve your health. Read on to learn four ways reading can improve your physical and mental health.

It will help reduce stress

Reading might sound like something you just don’t have time for if you live a busy, stressful life. But it could be the key to helping you relax at the end of a stressful day. According to research conducted by the University of Sussex, reading a book is one of the best ways to reduce stress. Their study showed that reading can reduce stress by 68 percent, and it will do the job faster than other tried and true methods like taking a walk or listening to your favorite music. So, pick up a good book and let your stress melt away.

You’ll sleep better

Reading can help you get a better night’s sleep, if you do it right. A good way to get more sleep is to create a nighttime sleep routine and include relaxing activities in it. Reading has been shown to reduce stress and help you relax, so it is a prime candidate for your bedtime routine. Staring at a screen is counterproductive, however, so stick to a book with real pages, rather than clicking through your favorite book on your phone or tablet.

It may help prevent dementia

Keeping your brain active at every age can help fight off symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Researchers have found that people who challenge their brains when they are young and old have a slower rate of mental decline. Keeping your brain active can help preserve memory and thinking skills into old age. It is beneficial to work your brain from childhood on, but it isn’t too late to start a reading hobby if you haven’t tried it yet. Studies indicate people can benefit from giving their brain a workout even if they begin later in life.

It can help you feel empathy

If you have a hard time relating to other people, getting hooked on a good book can help you with that. A recent study conducted by The New School for Social Research showed that people who became deeply involved in a fictional book and its characters were able to better understand their own feelings and beliefs as well as those of the characters. “If anyone has a desire to help others succeed in a non-threatening manner, this is a must read,” said Rose Rios, director of marketing at Legend Oaks Healthcare and Rehab of Northwest Houston. Reading literary fiction improved the ability to feel empathy for others.

Reading a book can make a difference to your health in ways that might surprise you. So instead of turning on the television at the end of the day, pick up a good book.

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