When you pick up a book, you may be looking forward to the intellectual benefits that it will bring you: new knowledge, an extensive vocabulary, or even an opportunity to get more in touch with your feelings. But did you know that reading is also good for your body?
The brain and the body do not exist independently of each other ̵
It reduces stress
A 2009 study among students in programs for health sciences under stress compared the effects of reading, yoga and humor. What the researchers found might surprise you: reading was just as effective as yoga and humor in reducing stress, and students only had to read 30 minutes to get these stress-reducing results.
Reading not only reduced the psychological feeling of stress for these students – it actually lowered their heart rate and blood pressure, thereby also reducing the physical effects of stress. So even if you can't get into a yoga class or a comedy club to reduce your stress, picking up a book for half an hour can be just as effective.
In fact, you might even be able to harvest stress – reduce benefits through shorter reading sessions. Yet another study (also from 2009) found that reading could reduce stress by 68 percent for just six minutes – more than walking or listening to music. Study participants who read had less muscle tension and a slower heartbeat, whether they were reading newspapers or books.
It helps you sleep
For many of us, the last thing we do before we go to bed is our email or social media checking media one last time. Although most people know that this is not good for their sleep, it can be a welcome distraction to worry about tomorrow's responsibilities. If you get that distraction from a book instead, your sleep will show a serious improvement.
Studies have shown that the use of our smartphones just before sleeping results in low quality sleep, and fewer of them. Meanwhile, as seen above, books help reduce body and mind stress, which can help you prepare for a good night's sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, try making part of your normal bedtime routine and see what happens when you turn off the light.
It Helps Medical Recovery
Bibliotherapy is a therapeutic method that helps patients heal and address medical problems. Although it is mostly used in the context of mental illness, bibliotherapy can also help people recover from physical illness.
As a result of reading, these patients find it easier to deal with the diagnosis, recovery, and all the effects that this process entails. For example, in a study, recovering heart attack patients used poetry therapy to address the PTSD and anxiety they experienced during recovery.
It increases blood flow
Many of your body parts need blood flow to function, and your brain is no exception – yet another example of how body and mind work together for your health.
Stanford researchers discovered something surprising when measuring the effects of reading on the brain: blood flow to different parts of the brain even increased while participants read literary novels. Brain circulation is important for your brain to function properly, because this way your brain gets the oxygen and nutrients it needs.
It can extend your life span
Finally, it is possible that reading may help you to live longer.
A study of more than 3500 people discovered that book readers on average lived longer than those who just read magazines or not at all. People who spent more than three and a half hours reading per week lived the longest. Although a single study is not exactly conclusive, given the other health benefits that reading can offer, it is not hard to see how this can help extend the life.
Do you want to reap these benefits for yourself? Simple – all you have to do is pick up a book. Trust us: saving time on your social media or television is more than worth reading. Even if you are not in the habit of reading regularly, start now and you will soon wonder how you have survived without this healthy and fun habit.