written by Justine Formosa Form 4

Reading is not something many of us do willingly. It is usually a forced obligation, like a tedious assignment given by our English teachers, but it can be so much more than that.

Reading has been evidenced to alter the biomechanics of the brain. Researchers have confirmed that reading involves an intricate network of circuits and impulses in the brain by analysing MRI scans of a regular reader. As one develops their reading proficiency, those networks are unconsciously being strengthened.

Researchers used functional MRI scans to evaluate the impact of reading a novel, on the brain in a 2013 study. Throughout the nine days, study participants read the novel “Pompeii”. As the story intensified and tension began to build up, more and more sections of the brain lit up with activity. Brain scans revealed that brain interconnectivity increases significantly throughout the reading session and for days following, chiefly in the somatosensory cortex — the part of the brain that responds to physical sensations, such as movement and pain.

Speaking of sensing pain, reading literary fiction — stories that delve into the personal lives of characters — demonstrates an enriched aptitude to fathom others’ feelings and beliefs. Researchers entitled this ability as the “theory of mind,” a set of skills fundamental for forming, navigating, and maintaining social relationships. While a single session of reading literary fiction is unlikely to spark this sensation, studies show that long-term fiction readers have a more developed theory of mind.

As per the National Institute on Aging, reading books and magazines is a good way to keep your mind active as you grow older. While there is no conclusive evidence that reading books prevents diseases like Alzheimer’s, studies suggest that seniors who read and solve arithmetic problems daily, preserve and increase their cognitive function. The earlier you start, the better. Patients who have engaged in mentally challenging activities throughout their lives are less likely to develop plaques, lesions, and tau-protein tangles found in the brains of people with dementia, according to a 2013 study conducted by Rush University Medical Centre.

How to reduce stress: 6 steps to manage stress - MedvisitIn 2009,a group of researchers studied the impact of yoga, humour, and reading on the stress levels of students enrolled in demanding health science programs in the USA. According to the study, 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rate, and feelings of psychological discomfort just as meritoriously as yoga and humour did.

A 12-year study of 3,635 adult participants found that individuals who read books lived around two years longer than those who either didn’t read or read magazines and other types of media. The study also found that persons who read for more than 3 and a half hours a week had a 23% higher chance of living longer than those who didn’t read at all. Reading does more than expand your vocabulary; it can tremendously influence one’s life. It doesn’t have to be for long hours at a time. Small time intervals, as little as 5 minutes a day, are equally as effective. So, what are you waiting for? Visit your local library or download books online – it’s never too late to start! There are thousands of book collections translated to every language you can imagine. There’s bound to be a good match for you.