We spend an overwhelming time thinking about our bodies and how to take care of them. We exercise and (try to) eat healthy in the hopes of keeping our bodies intact for as long as possible. But how often do you think about the health of your most vital organ? Your brain requires just as much of a workout, if not more, than the rest of your body.
It turns out the best way to do exercise it isn’t so hard after all, and it actually involves one of our favorite activities: reading! In recent years, an overwhelming number of studies have shown that reading and playing games that exercise your brain, like crosswords, are actually some of the most highly effective ways to stay sharp, and even prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia. In fact, the actual chemical make up of your brain alters based on whether you read or not. Researchers at Emory University found that there was “heightened connectivity in the left temporal cortex, an area of the brain associated with receptivity for language” every morning after the subjects of their study read a particular novel. And that wasn’t even while people were reading, it was the day after! This showed that the effects were not short-term, and that the benefits of reading were actually able to be measured.
And it turns out it doesn’t entirely matter what you read either. A study recently published in the journal, Brain Connectivity, found that reading fiction allows readers “to put themselves in another person’s shoes and flex the imagination in a way that is similar to the visualization of a muscle memory in sports.” And that definitely isn’t hard to believe. Every time you read a new book it feels like you’re adding to your own life experiences, taking on another person’s understanding of the world. It makes perfect sense that reading novels makes you more empathetic and compassionate towards those around you.
So, next time you’re trying to decide whether to watch Netflix or read a book, think about it as lifting weights for your brain. You never regret going to the gym, and you won’t regret reading a book!
Featured image courtesy of iStock.