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Sharp Health News

Read this: 4 health benefits of reading

Jan. 19, 2016

Benefits of reading

In a sea of streaming video and ever-present screens, binge-watching is now the entertainment of choice above the more old-school option of reading a book.

Michelle Milles, behavior change expert and wellness coach for Sharp Health Plan, says this should not be the case. “Reading can provide a healthy distraction from life’s day-to-day worries and pressures, while at the same time, making us smarter, happier and even more empathetic toward others.”

These studies show why you should incorporate reading into your daily routine:

Keeps your brain from slowing down
A 2013 study by Rush University Medical Center discovered that adults who spent their free time in intellectual activities such as reading or puzzling experienced a 32 percent slower rate of cognitive decline.

Relieves stress
In a 2009 British study at Sussex University, researchers asked participants to engage in an anxiety-filled activity and then either read, listen to music or play video games for six minutes. The stress levels, heart rate and muscle tension of those who read dropped 68 percent — more than any of the other activities.

Can lessen depression
A University of Manchester analysis published in 2013 showed people with severe depression benefited from low-intensity interventions, such as reading self-help books and interactive websites. Also, an additional study published in PLOS ONE demonstrated that patients who read self-help books in combination with traditional therapy sessions for a year lowered their depression level than those who only sought standard treatment.

Helps stave off Alzheimer’s disease
Like any organ, the brain needs activity to remain strong. In a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers determined adults who engage in brain-based activities like reading are less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Milles offers three ways to build reading into your schedule:

Start a book club at work
Milles suggests bringing the benefits of reading into your work. “In addition to building camaraderie and teamwork among employees, a book club can improve relationships between staff across different departments, encourage continuous learning and offer all employees the opportunity to practice leadership roles by leading the book club. It can also contribute to overall employee satisfaction, motivation and retention,” she says.

Ditch the eReader at night
In a 2014 study, researchers found that evening use of eReaders negatively affected sleep patterns, circadian timing and next-morning alertness. It’s best to use a small light next to the bed and a hard-copy book to rid yourself of the disruptive light from electronic devices.

Try reading for 15 minutes before work
It will help you start your morning focused and prepare you for the rest of your day.

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