For many people, cracking open a good book while lying on the beach or curling up beside a fire is a great way to relax. But there's many additional benefits to reading that may not be as obvious.

Reading reduces stress

A study by the University of Sussex found that reading can actually reduce stress levels by up to 68 per cent. Not only does reading reduce stress, it's also been found to decrease heart rates and ease muscle tension.

According to Dr David Lewis of the University reading is more than a just a distraction, it provides a healthy form of escapism.

"Losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation … It really doesn't matter what book you read ... you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author's imagination," he said.

Reading improves brain power

In the same way that you might work out at a gym to improve your physical health, reading is a form of mental exercise that helps keep our brains healthy.

An article in the AGE Journal found that daily mental exercise or "mental training" can improve cognitive function in adults. Among other benefits for our brains, reading can help boost our memory and ability to problem solve.

So next time you need to boost your brain power, try taking a break from studying and read something that interests you — whether that's a novel, magazine or online article.

Reading reduces your risk of developing dementia

As well as improving our brain power, reading has also been proven to reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Research from Krashen found that active readers outperform non-readers in the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), the standard test for detecting dementia.

Reading fosters empathy

A 2016 Canadian study explored the relationship between reading for leisure and improved empathy for others. In fact, almost three-quarters of the respondents actually said reading helped them better understand others' experiences.

For example, in the context of someone suffering from a disease, health services student Watson said it helped him develop empathy for patients and their families.

"Because you are taken on the journey of an individual with the disease, you gain a better understanding of what the individual and family members are experiencing, thus developing a level of empathy for them.”

Reading protects us from loneliness

It might seem strange that an individual activity like reading can protect us from lonelieness, but it's true.

Research has found that reading provides connection and helps create a sense of flow or enjoyment. This can also help people interact more effectively in the wider world.

You can find and borrow a book today at your nearest TAFE Queensland library, or check out their online services.


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