We talk a lot about hiking, walking and other physical hobbies. We understand that hiking is physically demanding, and everyone has their own physical range of abilities. Some people use wheelchairs or walkers, some participate in triathlons, everyone is doing their best. We encourage healthy activity that fits your physical abilities, whatever they may be.
In addition to physical exercise, mental exercise also helps your physical health. We all know that reading teaches us things, expands our vocabulary and can teach us new concepts. But, it literally strengthens your brain. MRI scans have shown that reading grows networks in the brain. Those networks not only let you process what you’re reading but also respond to physical sensations you experience.
The National Institute on Aging recommends reading to help you stay sharp. Studies have not proven reading can prevent diseases related to cognitive decline like Alzheimer’s. However, older people who read and do puzzles daily maintain and improve cognition as they age. A study from Rush Univ. found that people with hobbies like reading were less likely to develop plaques, lesions and tau-protein tangles associated with dementia.
In addition to improving your brain, reading lowers stress, blood pressure and heart rate as effectively as yoga. In fact, 30 minutes of reading and 30 minutes of yoga have the same impact on the body for all of those measurements. You don’t have to read something high-minded or complicated to reap the results. Just reading enjoyable books can help your heart health.
While some people might lean more toward magazines, research suggests we should reach for books. A 2016 study found that people who read for at least a half-hour a day extended their lives by an average of two years. People who read books lived longer than people who read newspapers or magazines. It can’t be proven that books are what extended their lives. But, a survey of 1,500 adults found that people who regularly read books were generally happier, more satisfied with their lives and felt their lives were meaningful.
The wonderful thing about reading is that it is a free hobby that can be as social or solitary as you like. Libraries have massive digital online catalogs you can read from your tablet, computer or phone. We suggest changing your settings to filter out blue light if you plan on staring at the screen for ages. You can also go and get physical books from the library. You can also join online or in person to have chats about books. It’s a great way to connect to people and make new friends. Or, reach out to your friends and start a book club; you have a wonderful reason to be social and a group of people who will help you form a habit of reading!