In the past decades, even as smartphones, social media, and online searches gobble up bigger chunks of our time, reading has been proven to have significant benefits to people of all ages. Babies and toddlers who are introduced to books develop stronger vocabularies, cognitive abilities, and imaginations. As children go to school, bookworms tend to perform better in all subjects, even those that do not involve reading. These benefits stay with readings long after graduation and positively affect job performance.
Reading For A Longer Life
What about people approaching their golden years? Are readers less susceptible to physical and mental declines that often accompany aging? Can they live longer than those who do not enjoy reading?
The answer is a resounding ‘yes!’ Individuals over 50-years-old who read three and a half hours a week or half an hour a day live two years longer than their non-reading counterparts. The more you hit the books, the better the results. Also, if the reading material is attention-grabbing, like a thrilling novel, the activity has a threefold benefit: it improves brain function, acts as a stress-buster, and even lowers your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Keep Aging At Bay Through Learning
It is common knowledge that physical exercise keeps muscles and joints working at an optimum level, and maintains the heart and respiratory health. The brain also needs to workout to function well. Like other parts of the anatomy, our grey matter performs better the more we use it. Learning new skills and increase their knowledge is beneficial for their thinking patterns and memory. Newly acquired information and abilities cause nerve fibers to extend from brain cells and form new networks. These increased neural connections go a long way to promote brain strength and youthful vigor.
So, like reading, learning a new subject or skill is a powerful anti-aging weapon. Adults who learn another language, for example, reap double benefits: a longer attention span and higher alertness. Even older people who frequently experience a decline in their mental functions find that their cognitive abilities increase when they engage in such brain activities. This is because achieving proficiency in a new language stimulates various brain centers. Learning different grammatical rules, new sounds, and new pronunciation enhance creativity and an understanding of language. Another perk is that the group setting of most language learning sessions increases socialization—a pleasurable way to keep the brain young. Furthermore, like reading among children and young adults, the positive effects last long after the class ends.
The Key to Success
Whatever mental anti-aging methods suit your fancy, the important thing is to keep it challenging. If your usual reading fare is mystery novels, try checking out the biography section at the library. Instead of doing a daily crossword, play a game of Scrabble with the computer or a friend. Take a different route to work, school, or the supermarket. Learn a new swimming stroke. By keeping yourself challenged, you will grow not only new neural pathways but also exercise different areas of the brain. This is a sure way to keep yourself in top form, both physically and mentally. The golden years can indeed be the best years of our lives!
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