Seven cognitive and social benefits of reading

Happy older man reading outside, enjoying cognitive and mental benefits

As we get older, we often consider how to keep our brains active so we can live life boldly. One great way to take care of our minds is by reading. Since March is National Reading Month, it’s the perfect time to bring attention to the many cognitive, mental and social benefits of reading. 

Stronger memory

According to a study in Neurology, seniors who engage in mentally stimulating activities like reading have slower rates of cognitive decline compared to those who don’t. Reading is like a workout for the brain! Exercising our brains strengthens the neural network (connections in the brain), which can be important for short-term memory.

Better decision-making

Reading can improve problem-solving skills and help us make decisions! Research suggests that those who regularly challenge their brains through activities like reading score better on tests designed to test analytical and reasoning abilities. Reading presents us with a lot of information that we must consider over a long period of time, challenging us to avoid split-second decisions and consider all the factors.

Improved focus

There’s a strong link between reading skills (like accuracy and speed) and the ability to pay attention! Reading requires us to imagine the setting and remember the details of the story, improving our ability to focus over time. 

Reduced stress

Reading offers us a healthy escape from day-to-day life. It can also be physically relaxing! Snuggling up with a good book lowers the heart rate and eases tension in muscles, resulting in a relaxed feeling. A study at the University of Sussex found that reading can reduce stress by up to 68%. It even works faster than many other popular methods of relaxation, like drinking a cup of tea or listening to music.

Slower progression of Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Research shows that adults in their 70s who participate in mentally challenging activities in their younger years are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. As we discussed, building connections in the brain creates a strong neural network. When that network is strong, it’s harder for Alzheimer’s symptoms to emerge.

Improved sleep

Reading can be a great way to improve your sleep. As we know, relaxing before bed is an important way to get a good night’s rest. It’s a good idea to avoid the blue light generated by smart phones and other electronics, as it can make us feel more awake. Reading a book can help us unwind without phone or TV, increasing our chances of great sleep. 

Social opportunities

While many of us think about reading as a solitary activity, it doesn’t have to be! Try joining a book club or getting together with friends to discuss your latest read. Your local YMCA can be a great way to find other adults interested in talking about books. You may also want to check out Facebook Groups or apps like Meetup to find book club options online. Staying social has cognitive and mental benefits, so don’t miss out on this chance for connection. 

If you have any questions about how to get out this information, give our ApexAssistants a call! We can be reached at (844) 279-0508 (TTY: 711). Our hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Apr. 1 through Sept. 30 and seven days a week 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. (local time) from Oct. 1 through Mar. 31.


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