Here’s one the bookworms will definitely celebrate. Not that you’re looking for more reasons to curl up with a good book, but just in case you’re looking for one, you’ll definitely want to hear this one.
All you book lovers out there may actually be living longer lives than your non-reading counterparts. Hard to believe? Ask the experts. Science actually shows reading at least three and a half hours a day can help you live longer than the average person who prefers to watch videos on YouTube on a long commute or crush it on Candy Crush before heading off to la-la land.
That’s right. Even while you’re thinking of putting in a thousand steps on your pedometer every day or taking in your daily dose of leafy greens and lean proteins, you shouldn’t forget to nourish your mind (and dare I say, soul) as well. All the most hard-core readers don’t even need an empirical, unbiased, and systematic study to prove it, but it’s nice to have science on your side, isn’t it?
A study published in Social Science & Medicine journal shows how researchers followed the lives of more than 3,500 people to study how their reading habits affected the length of their lives.
The result? After factoring in things such as age, sex, race, marital status, education, perceived health, and wealth, the researchers found out that people who read a book for around half an hour every day were 17 percent less likely to die than their non-reading counterparts.
People who read more than that had even higher chances – 23% — of living than people who did read a book at all. All in all, book readers were found to live almost two years longer than people who did not read a book.
Keep in mind that this is for people who read books specifically. If you’re more of a newspaper or magazine person, it’s likely you’ll still live a longer life, but not as long as the book readers. What the study showed was people who preferred newspapers or magazines or even blogs also enjoyed some longevity benefits, but not as much as the book readers.
Still, a benefit is a benefit is a benefit, and it’s definitely NOT the time to quit your reading habit now. In fact, I say this is the perfect time to jumpstart this perfectly advantageous habit. Read everything you can – from books to magazines and blogs and even food labels. (Reading food labels is an extremely helpful habit that I think will improve your quality of life even more, as it makes you aware of what you’re actually putting inside your body.)
As to why reading is good for your health is not actually clear (at least, not scientifically, yet). The study did not focus on why reading books can help someone live a longer life. And to be very clear about it, the research doesn’t say that reading books every day causes you to live longer. It just says people who read books every day live longer than people who don’t.
Of course, we’re free to make a few science-based inferences. A number of other scientific studies have proven that a person’s literacy level has a lot of impact on other aspects of their life.
For instance, children who read books early on are more likely to enjoy better socio-economic status when they grow up. This gives them better access to resources that can help them take care of their physical, mental, and emotional well-being as well as that of their loved ones.
Also, British research shows that a large portion of prisoners have a reading level that is way below that of other people. It doesn’t say that not reading causes people to commit crime. It just says people who don’t read books or read less are more likely to commit crime than people who read more books. There is an obvious link there, but exactly what it is, we still haven’t established.
So there you go. If living a longer life isn’t enough motivation for you to pick up a good book, I don’t know what it. Although in my case, I’d say living another life in another world, even if just for the moment, is motivation enough for me.
Just keep in mind that reading is just as sedentary as sitting in front of your computer at work or lounging on the couch to watch Netflix on a rainy day. It’s probably safe to say that you shouldn’t go expecting to live a hundred years if you’re literally always slipping away to a quiet corner to curl up with the book of the month.
There is no fountain of youth. There is no magic bullet. There is no single answer. The key to living a happy and healthy life to your 90s and even 100s is still a good mix of a lot of things. These include eating good, healthy food, getting as much physical movement as you can, and giving your mind a good level of stimulation (from books, people and other things). Remember, becoming healthy and staying healthy is not a one-shot deal. It’s a lifelong endeavor that you have to work at in the beginning but becomes a part of you in the end.
Andy Atari is a fitness blogger, researcher, and enthusiast. She writes for the every guy and every girl, the average Joes and Janes of the world who aren’t training to win a competition tomorrow or run a marathon in a week. She believes that everyone can have a fit and strong body, a goal that is not impossible to achieve if you set your mind to it. For more information, check out Andy’s blog at FitnessAtrium.com.