5 Surprising Ways Reading Can Make You Healthier

by Alejandra "Alex" Ruani — Get free science updates here.
Reading makes you healthier

Photo Credit: Cindi

Let’s start with the bottom line: The more you read, the healthier you become.

Think about it like this – reading gives muscle to your memory. While the brain isn’t actually a muscle, it can still benefit from a good workout.

Furthermore, it’s surprising just how reading can make you healthier. With that in mind, in this article I want to explore five ways that reading can do just that.

1. Reading calls your intelligence to action

Rather than watching a video or listening to an audio track, notice how much you must concentrate whilst reading.

“Reading gives you a unique pause button for comprehension and insight”, says Maryanne Wolf, director of the Center for Reading and Language Research at Tufts University.

Reading essentially forces us to concentrate and imagine where otherwise we are just absorbing the information in pictures or sounds coming at us. It’s simply good for your brain.

Having that ability to pause, reflect, absorb, imagine and process sharpens intelligence by challenging the entire neural circuit from reading.

Nutritionally, we can even consider the idea that books are like vitamins for the brain.

Here’s a nice list of 10 easy to read books I discovered as a great opening for the inquisitive mind and sharpening your intelligence about, well, the universe!

Or simply immerse yourself in one of our online courses packed with amazing reading materials that can make you healthier in many other ways too.

2. Reading reduces stress

Now this gets even more exciting!

Think about when you read – you are able to tune out the world and tune into the words in front of you. Your mind, or brain, is actively engaging in something that requires your full attention.

The result? You are not thinking about outside stressors when your nose is in a book. In other words, it distracts you. According to a University of Sussex study, a simple six minutes a day has shown to reduce stress by a huge 68%.

But how does it really reduce stress?

Here’s where it gets impressive. It’s that distraction – having your mind concentrate on reading – that eases the tensions in your muscles and heart/circulatory system.

People who experience emotional stress – rushing around all the time with a clenched jaw, perhaps experiencing frustration and anger more often than not – are more prone to developing heart disease.

All that chronic emotional stress deposits loads of adrenaline unnecessarily into the bloodstream. Over time, this dumping weakens the very vital system that is our lifeline to basic nutrient distribution.

“Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation, especially in these times of uncertainty when we are all craving some escapism”, says cognitive neurobiologist, Dr. David Lewis.

Reading also lowers muscle tension, because of this healthy diversion of actively engaging your imagination out of your physical body (and woes) to the world of words in that book.

3. Reading can help prevent brain ageing and Alzheimer’s disease

Yes, an intellectual hobby like reading may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and memory problems.

This research found that elderly people who regularly undertake intellectual activities such as reading are 2.5 times less likely to get this debilitating disease, which affects over 850,000 in the UK.

Challenging the brain to learn new things through reading can help your informational processing stay in better shape. It’s thought that it might even reshape brain circuitry by helping the brain continue to be more adaptable with regard to mental functions as one ages.

4. Reading fiction boosts your social skills

That simulation of social experience involved in a good novel might engage the same social cognitive processes in the ‘real world’. What a great way to hone in on improving your relationship with others in social situations.

Scientists investigating introversion, proved this very hypothesis in an experimental study. It’s remarkable how that exposure to fiction might be able to stimulate our empathic ability through direct immersion into a character in a book. Sort of like being able to relate to someone better in the real world because you can liken a circumstance or scene or even a character to one you’ve previously engaged in a novel you read.

Furthermore, if your social skills get a lift, you know what else increases? Self-confidence for personal growth and empathy for others.

5. Immersing yourself in deep reading gives you the best results

If you’re a regular reader of our Science Reports (click HERE if you aren’t yet), you’ll notice that we take your mind through a journey of discovery and fascination inside each PDF download for you. There’s a good reason for that: it deepens your reading experience.

All of the above ways reading makes you healthier refer to what’s called deep reading.

That’s the immersion into a book or reading material, which stimulates the intellect, reduces stress, helps reshape brain circuitry, and boosts social skills.

Deep reading calls for you to engage at a deeper level than say surfing the net for information.

Decoding words on a site or gathering tidbits of knowledge rather quickly, as you do when surfing the internet, will not produce the same experience as deep reading, especially when reading literature or a comprehensive article like this one.

The sensory immersion that unfolds in deep reading is a great robust activity for the brain.

How about you?

What can you share with our community of your experience of reading? Do you gravitate towards literature or non-fiction, or do you prefer the good old surf of the net?

Tell us in the comments below!

Every other Thursday we share our research and actionable advice to help you and those you care about. If you enjoyed this, join our FREE updates.


  • Laura

    Reply Reply July 21, 2014

    Excellent! It made me feel like reading a lovely novel now!Great tip for me today. So , I will treat myself to a leisure hour at the bookstore picking up a new book.

    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 21, 2014

      Laura, sounds delightful! Enjoy :-)

  • Libby

    Reply Reply July 21, 2014

    Gee, wished I liked fiction, but I have always had a rough go at actually sitting down and reading anything that was literature related.
    Even though in my head I think I’d like it, less than 20 pages in I’m giving that novel to someone else to enjoy.

    I find my stress levels are the best when do my spiritual reading in the early morning hours. It’s sort of before my conscious mind has fully awakened.

    thanks for the info here…I do enjoy learning about ways to become more astute!

    • Maurice Castelijn

      Reply Reply July 21, 2014

      Libby, I thought so too until I started using a light-weight reader (Amazon’s Kindle). What I did: enlarge font size and tweak line spacing.

      Result: less staring at pages full of text and smoother reading experience. The more speedy page turning also makes me feel more immersed. (Alex – am I doing some sort of brain conditioning?)

      Might just be me, but thinking about it… the course materials here follow the same principles of easy reading and high absorption. They too have larger text size and spacing. And it works.

      Not saying that this trick will get you hooked on fiction all of a sudden (or becoming super social for that matter) but try it – may work for you too!

      Maybe others want to pitch in? These are just my personal views.

      • Alex

        Reply Reply July 21, 2014

        The font size is very important and it should always be different depending where you read from (e.g. newspaper, email, blog article, course materials online vs. printed, etc.)

        For “online” materials, a larger font size enriches your reading experience and helps you to better absorb the content :-)

        We also include a “PRINT” button on our blog articles, as many of us still prefer the good old paper form!

    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 21, 2014

      Libby, what a great practice, your spiritual reading counts as meditation, which turns on genes that protect against free-radical damage — and turns off genes that promote ageing/oxidative stress: https://thehealthsciencesacademy.org/healthy-living/can-you-change-your-dna-to-look-younger/

  • Helen

    Reply Reply July 21, 2014

    I love that you put everything in the email. If an email starts well then says ‘click here for more’ I tend to just stop reading it.

    I like seeing everything’ all at once and not had to wait for pages to load or tolerate ads etc. I can just reed it , and enjoy it.

    So thanks for doing that. I appreciate it. And enjoy the emails :)

    • Alex

      Reply Reply July 22, 2014

      Helen, love reading what you’ve just shared. I’m so glad you’re enjoying our emails. Thanks so much for noticing! :-)

  • Maik Bahko

    Reply Reply August 3, 2014

    Well im not much of a reader, but i find the articles that are sent to my mail very interesting, hope it helps me with my reading skills.

    Thanks alot!

  • Necore Murphy

    Reply Reply January 1, 2015

    I agree with the article,but what i notice with myself is that if reading books online,my concentration is not there,but when its an old fashion book I can get to that deeper level of reading easier.

  • sam Baichoo

    Reply Reply January 1, 2015

    It is refreshing to know that the fundamentals such as reading and also writing has an integral in the nutrition of brain and research has shown the physiology miniature skills. Not ignoring the benefits of quite time and meditation, we are not meant to be solitary

  • Apple

    Reply Reply January 1, 2015

    I am not sure if I agreed that surfing the internet, will not produce the same experience as deep reading. It all depends on how you and what you do when surfing. I surf and stop to read, analyse what I read like I do with your site.

    • admin

      Reply Reply January 5, 2015

      Apple – we love to hear that our articles give you the same deep-reading experience. More science coming your way each Thursday! Best wishes, Maria (Research Analyst)

  • Jackie

    Reply Reply January 1, 2015

    It was interesting, I just got a fitness tracker that logs your heart rate, sleep habits etc. I was doing some really intense reading for half an hour and instead of it logging me as being awake it said I was asleep! And not just light sleep, it said deep sleep. Reading is so amazing for your body :-)

  • jeanette

    Reply Reply January 3, 2015

    I love reading, and yes it does release stress, as does painting or doing anything artistic. Fiction – love it, but has to be the style I enjoy – too often I don’t finish when something is poorly written. Glad to hear I am reducing my chances of alzheimers.

  • Charlotte

    Reply Reply November 12, 2015

    I am an avid reader. Always have been. My mother brought us up to enjoy reading and remember that as a good deed for doing our chores we were given money to buy a book. Our living room was like a library I remember and we all used to go into our corners reading our books. Even Now I can’t go to bed without reading and always have a book handy. I remember as a child writing words that I liked and trying to incorporate them in my compositions in my homework. And now I do it cause I enjoy it and it does relieve stress cause for those couple of hrs or so you forget what you’re facing or worrying you. What I didn’t know is that it reduces my chances of Alzheimers which is a plus for something which is a joy

  • Lisa

    Reply Reply August 7, 2016

    This is a very good article and helpful, thank you Alex. I will read more books.
    My father will turn to 100 years old on 3rd October this year. His brain is still working well, he read newspaper 30-40 minutes every day for many many years. Now I know that he received a lot of benefits from his reading.I can not wait to tell him about this information, I am sure that he will proud of himself and going to doing even better. Alex,thank you so much for all your simple, clear, helpful articles, I really like them.

  • Seipati

    Reply Reply September 30, 2016

    Alex thanks a lot, this is the best article, I always read magazines not knowing the benefits of reading,this is fantastic..thank you very much

  • Lawin

    Reply Reply October 5, 2016

    Hello Alex great to read more things and learn more.

  • Daria

    Reply Reply October 24, 2016

    Hello, Alex! Thank you for every minute and effort that you spend for us in order to make us more intelligent, healthier and closer to the modern and correct information, that is very important nowadays, when the wrong information can mislead us in everything. Thank God that there are such good people that can invest time and love in everything in order to make the world more beautiful!!!!!!!!!! I love the emails and the articles that you send to me a lot, they are very informative and interesting, it’s like everyday food for my brain, and I am looking forward for them every morning, while checking my email.Thank you very much for everything and God bless you in everything!

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