5 Surprising Health Benefits of Reading

Grab a book, sit back and relax. We have some great news for book worms.

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Here's why it's a good idea to pick up a book...

1. It might help you live longer

                                                                                                                             A recent study by Yale University School of Public Health explored the relationship between reading and longevity. Researchers collected data from 3,635 people over the age of 50 and compared information on their physical health over a 12-year period.

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The result? The group of people who read for more than three and a half hours a week were found to have a higher survival advantage. Sadly, reading the latest celebrity gossip doesn't count when it comes to increasing life expectancy. The study found those who read books rather than newspapers or magazines had a significantly greater chance of living longer.

2. It encourages focus and concentration

                                                                                                                   Many of us are pros at multi-tasking, but the constant attention we give to answering emails and checking social media feeds can actually be damaging to productivity.

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Sitting down with a good book for more than five minutes not only encourages the mind to escape, it allows time for the mind to focus on one thing over a prolonged period. How often do you let yourself do that in a day?

3. It can improve memory

Reading requires concentration, but it also involves absorbing information and then retaining it, which stimulates the brain. It's this process that can sharpen the mind and boost your ability to remember. 'Parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions – such as vision, language, and associative learning - connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging,' says Ken Pugh, PhD, of Haskins Laboratories. 'A sentence is shorthand for a lot of information that must be inferred by the brain.' Through reading, the brain is forced to make new memories, which helps to improve existing short-term memory function.

4. It can reduce stress

Reading might not be the first thing you do when you need to de-stress, but research by the University of Sussex suggests it's the most relaxing way to wind down. The 2009 study monitored the stress levels of a group of volunteers who tried out different methods of relaxation. After six minutes of reading, their stress levels were reduced by 68 per cent, compared to a 61 per cent reduction from listening to music and a 42 per cent decrease from walking.

Why did reading come out on top? It's all down to escape, said test leader Dr David Lewis. 'It really doesn't matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author's imagination.'

5. It can help you sleep better

If you're prone to checking emails in bed, it might be time to swap your phone for a book. Exposure to a phone's blue light is said to impact our shut-eye, but there are better night time rituals to calm the mind and reading is one of them. As well as eliminating our devices, establishing a routine has also been linked to a good night's sleep. Another great reason to make that bedtime reading session a habit.

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