Read Between the Lines: Health Benefits of a Good Book

Read Between the Lines: Health Benefits of a Good Book

Aug 03 2020

National Book Lovers Day is August 9—a great time to review the many benefits of burying your nose in a good book.

“I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a book,” said author J.K. Rowling, creator of Harry Potter. And while magic is not the #1 genre for everyone, many Michiganders spend summer days grabbing that book they’ve been meaning to get to and hitting the beach, boat or pool chair to read in the sun. There’s a reason reviewers highlight the “best beach reads” of the season.

If you’re a “bibliophile” (someone with a deep appreciation for books), National Book Lovers Day on August 9 is probably on your list of favorite holidays. If not, it’s still a good reminder of all the ways your health and wellbeing can benefit from finding a favorite cozy corner, a great book and reading the day away.

When you read, you’re improving your memory and empathy. Research shows that it makes people feel more positive, too. And science says reading has some serious health benefits from helping with depression, strengthening your memory, reducing stress and inspiring you to try something new.

Here are our top favorite benefits of time well-spent with a good book:

Books boost brain strength.

Your brain is a muscle, and like any muscle, it needs regular exercise to improve strength. When you read a book you have to remember lots of stuff—from complex characters to changing plots. This brings existing neural pathways to life in your brain, more complex content (think poetry) can help your brain stay elastic and active. This is why frequent reading helps older readers decrease mental decline, by as much as 32%. It’s even known to reduce the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. One study of readers who had a MRI (or brain scan) the morning after reading 30 pages of a book showed boosted activity in the left temporal cortex—that’s the part of your brain associated with intelligence and language. Not bad from just a half hour with a great read.

Prose props up positivity.

Reading can reduce stress by 68% and studies have shown literary lounging is helpful to those prone to depression. From self-help books that can offer low-intensity tips and advice, to being read to aloud while hospitalized, depressed patients have been shown positive improvement and feeling better when browsing books is involved. This is why experts recommend a bedtime ritual of reading before snoozing, which can help signal that it’s time to wind down and doze. Just be sure to avoid too much light from e-readers and tablets, which can actually negatively impact your sleep (check out other helpful sleep tips here).

Stories store solutions for kids.

Several studies show children who read can better grasp complex topics, apply logic and even use good judgement. And did you know a children’s book exposes your kiddos to 50% more words than watching a TV show? It’s why librarians, teachers and other experts are always recommending kids read over summer vacation—because students who read prior to preschool are proven to do well in all areas of formal education. So, put down your tablet or phone and pick up a good book for at least 20 minutes a day.

Manuscripts can motivate.

Research shows that when you read about characters doing something you want to try, you’re more likely to actually do it in real life. Been wanting to try rock climbing, take that trip abroad or cook more at home? Pick up a book. It could help provide the motivation you need to finally check a major item off your bucket list or take that next step in your career you’ve been holding back on. Actions like this can help boost your mood, and even your health and overall wellbeing.

Whether fiction or non-fiction, hardcover or e-reader, remember the many benefits of being a bit of a bookworm on National Book Lovers Day and all year long.