From relieving stress to improving brain function to increasing empathy, books are capable of doing a lot more than just entertaining the people who enjoy them. In fact, reading is the best workout for your brain, and it can even improve your memory. Sure, unwinding with Netflix at the end of every day is relaxing and all, but regularly reading is good for your mind, body, and soul.
We regularly obsess over the best ways to exercise our bodies: how to trim them or strengthen them, what to feed them or what to keep away from them. But how often do we think about exercising our brains? The most complex organ and command center of the whole body, the small, internal three-pound biological structure is responsible for so many important functions, yet it tends to get ignored, even taken for granted.
That is, until something goes wrong. Once this magical piece of machinery starts to break down, we start to worry about it, but what if instead of trying to treat a problem after it starts, we focused on preventative care and overall brain wellness? What if we exercised our brains like we do our bodies?
There are a lot of different ways you can treat your brain with love and care for its health that doesn't require a doctor's appointment, a prescription, or a trip to the gym. Plenty of foods, including salmon, nuts, and avocados, have been dubbed "brain foods" for their high omega-3 fats content, and doctors have long praised their ability to improve brain function and memory. Purveyors of sudoku and Sunday morning crossword-lovers have long believed in the power of puzzles to keep brains healthy and functioning at their highest levels.
According to scientists, though, one of the best ways you can exercise your brain is reading, and the reason why is all connected to memory.
One of the brain's most important functions is memory. It is the storage center of everything a person has learned, including not only their own name and identity and the identities of the people around them, but the skills they need to function in everyday life. Without it, people struggle to make it through day-to-day life, as evident in the heartbreaking case of Alzheimer's disease, an illness 500,000 people die from every year. That's why it's crucial to continually work to engage the mind and improve memory.
Luckily, to do that, all you have to do is pick up a book.
According to a study at the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, mental stimulation like reading can help protect memory and thinking skills, especially with age. The authors of the study even suggest that reading every day can slow down late-life cognitive decline, keeping brains healthier and higher functioning for longer.
Ongoing studies and observations at Northcentral University published similar findings. According to the graduate school's director, Dr. Wade Fish, reading has actually shown to have a slower rate of memory deterioration and the decline of other key mental capacities. This delayed decline means that older adults can stay mentally healthier for longer, which actually means reading can help people live longer.
The act of reading does a number of things that helps heighten overall brain function and increase memory. Scientists at University of California, Berkeley, found that it can lower the levels of beta amyloid, a brain protein involved in Alzheimer's, by keeping the mind cognitively stimulated. Reading has also been linked to slowing mental decline by keeping important parts of the brain working, and improving overall mental flexibility, an important component to developing and retaining memory.
You may not be able to see it, but your brain is one of the most important parts of yourself. Without it and the memories it keeps, you wouldn't be you, let alone remember all of your favorite books.
Luckily, just be reading them, you can help improve your memory and exercise your brain in the most fun and effective way.