It may be tempting to curl up on the couch and turn on the television to unwind, but research indicates that reading is one of the best workouts for the brain. The World Health Organization says that doctors diagnose nearly 10 million new cases of dementia each year. With so many people understandably concerned about any and all cognitive issues related to aging, the search is continually on to find ways to strengthen the mind’s muscle. It may be as simple as picking up a book.
People make New Year’s resolutions to improve their lives, and reading more can be a great way to do just that. According to the online health and wellness resource The Healthy (www.thehealthy.com), reading has been associated with language reception in the left temporal cortex of the brain. When this part of the brain processes written material, neurons begin working hard to transmit information. Research conducted by Stanford University indicated that MRI scans of people who are deep into a Jane Austen novel showed an increase in blood flowing to areas of the brain that control both cognitive and executive function.
When the brain is working efficiently, it may be less prone to some of the issues that can cause a decline in memory and brain function. Research published in the journal Neurology found frequent brain exercise through reading lowered mental decline by 32 percent. Of course, the benefits of reading extend beyond the physical. Literary fiction can help people be more empathetic. Getting lost in a book and the characters’ stories makes others more relatable. Reading has the potential to help a person understand what people are thinking, offers research published in the journal Science.
Picking up a good book also can help a person gain knowledge of new cultures, ideas and history and even improve vocabulary. Picking up a newspaper or magazine, joining a book club or reading with children are just a few of the many ways to improve the mind through reading.