Can Reading Fiction Make You Healthier?

People who don’t read are missing out on the health benefits of reading fiction. Of course, you’d expect an author of crime novels to say something like that. But it’s true. There’s increasing scientific evidence that reading might improve mental and physical health. I’ve written a couple of posts in the past about this. Check out how reading novels can make big changes in your brain and how fiction reading can improve financial literacy. Both of those posts link to serious scientific research that shows the many ways reading improves thinking processes and intellectual ability.

But, can reading fiction actually make you healthier, overall?

I’ve come up with my own list of ways reading crime novels and other fiction can keep you healthy and in shape.

Read while on a treadmill. You can read a book or your Kindle while jogging on a treadmill or using the elliptical machine. Many of these exercise machines even have bookstands built into them especially for this purpose.

Get lost in a book, you might forget to eat. Have you ever lost track of time while engrossed in a great book? Perhaps you spent three hours reading Motion to Kill or Shakedown on a Saturday night and completely forgot about eating dinner. Or you got lost in the fascinating world of your period romance novel and read right through your lunch break. Not that I advocate skipping meals…just saying that it’s better than eating fried fast food or a pound of OreosTM.

Reading reduces stress. Feeling a little stressed out? Pick up a novel and chill out. The University of Sussex conducted research in 2009 in their Mindlab showing that reading fiction is the most effective way to beat stress and relax. The investigators reported that reading did a better job of relieving stress than taking a walk, sitting down with a cup of coffee or tea, or even listening to music.

Exercise for your brain. When you become enthralled by a storyline in a book, you’re doing more than just following the plot. You’ve activated your brain and put it in a state of imagining the events. Your brain simulates the events in the story in ways it does not when you’re watching television. During this time, your brain is getting quite a workout, which keeps your mental acuity sharp and young.

Reading may prevent Alzheimer’s. According to research, adults who regularly do things that actively engage the brain – like reading, Sudoku, or crossword puzzles – develop Alzheimer’s disease far less often than their counterparts.

Readers sleep better. Sleep experts say that establishing a calming routine, such as reading, right before bedtime can help clear the swirling thoughts about the day and calm the mind. This leads to deeper, more refreshing sleep. Then you’ll wake up refreshed and ready to take on another day.

If you’re not a reader, hopefully my list has convinced you that it might be a good idea to grab an exciting fiction book, like one of my thrillers, and become one. If you’re already a book nerd, this list will give you confidence that your reading habit is a great one that you should continue to nurture throughout your life. Make it a great day!


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