Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Porsche Brosseau.

Some of the benefits of reading are well known. It’s a perfect way to gain knowledge, keep current or be entertained, too. Its health boosting qualities are less known, but a growing body of research is pushing them into the forefront with news about reading’s ability to improve brain health, from creating new neuro-pathways to strengthening short-term memory recall and even boosting longevity.

Researchers at the Yale School of Public Health dug through 12 years of University of Michigan’s Health and Retirement Study and found that people who read books (nonfiction, fiction, poetry or prose) for at least 30 minutes a day were living at minimum two years longer than non-readers.

More voracious readers, who spent more than three hours a week reading, were 23 percent less likely die in the time period studied, from 2001 to 2012, than those who stuck only to newspapers and magazines.

Book smart, brain boosting

What do books offer that other type of media might not? The answer isn’t crystal clear, but the theory is that immersing oneself in a really good story results in “deep reading.” It forces the brain to think more critically and to retain details from chapter to chapter. This process assists in forging new pathways and aids with quicker thinking over time.

Expanding your vocabulary bodes well for preserving cognitive abilities with age. Photo: Flickr/Creative Commons, Tadeu Pereira.

Enjoying a mixed repertoire of books, websites and newspapers can also boast benefits. Learning new facts and words stimulate the brain and keep it sharp. New research also says that having a large vocabulary may be linked to having a mind that is more resilient. That’s an important quality when it comes to dealing with damage to brain cells. The resilient brain can navigate seamlessly around pathways that may have been harmed by stroke or dementia, for example.

Boomers would be well served by reading more now. It can help slow later-in-life cognitive decline, according to study published in the journal, Neurology.

Some people may shy away from physically picking up a book because of issues like weight, which makes it more cumbersome to carry around and to hold, especially for anyone with arthritis in their hands. Others cite the small type as a deterrent to reading.

E-readers, like the Kobo Aura, allows users to adjust type size. Photo: Supplied.

Consider one of the new e-readers available, like the Kobo Aura ONE. It is easy to use and weighs just 230 grams (about the same as a small grapefruit) and has a 7.8-inch screen that features ComfortLight PRO, which reduces a reader’s exposure to blue light – something that can disrupt sleep and strain eyes. The type is customizable with 11 different fonts and 50 styles. With 8 GB of memory, it can hold up to 6,000 books – plenty to keep even the most prolific reader clicking through pages for years.