When it comes to protecting your mind from signs of aging, you probably know to exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get enough high-quality sleep. But it turns out that reading, an activity that so many of us love, is also great for short- and long-term brain health. Even better, you don’t need to bury your nose in a book for hours to see the impacts!
Recently, neuroscientist Kristen Willeumier, PhD went on mindbodygreen’s podcast and talked about how reading for just 15 to 30 minutes a day can help you see impressive brain-boosting health benefits. “[When] the brain learns, [it] forms these cognitive maps,” she explained on the program. “So the more reading you’re doing as you age will still keep your brain sharp.” The more of those neural connections you make over time, the healthier your mind is in the long run.
Another bonus: Dr. Willeumier says you don’t have to pick up a specific genre, like classic literature, to see the benefits. Instead, you can read whatever you want! Not only are you more likely to focus and actually pay attention if you’re invested in a book, but there’s a better chance you’ll read for longer if you actually enjoy what’s in front of you. Whether romance novels or biographies are your jam, crack open that book and set a timer for 15 minutes if you need it.
Lots of research backs up Dr. Willumier’s assertions. Previous studies show that activities like reading can improve brain health as people age and prevent the onset of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Moreover, it can have an indirect impact on your cognitive function by helping other things that are critical for keeping your mind sharp. For example, reading is shown to enhance sleep quality and reduce stress, both of which are key components of a strong brain.
No matter which books are your favorite, it’s great to know that such a simple and relaxing activity can have such a ripple effect!
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.