When was the last time you visited your local library or bookstore? Last week? Last month? Or maybe you download books onto your electronic tablet. If you’re like me, I love going to the library. Recently, I was at the Middleton Public Library picking up some videos that were on hold and decided to peruse the biography/autobiography section downstairs. I really didn’t “need” any more books since I currently have four on my nightstand. Three fiction and one non-fiction, in case you’re wondering. Twenty minutes later (I’m amazed I made it out in such a short time as I’m known to wander the aisles) I was holding biographies about physicist Albert Einstein, conservationist Jane Goodall and an autobiography by comedian George Carlin. My selection should tell you more than a little about me.

What are the health benefits of reading?
1. You can get in shape faster, stay fit longer and reduce the risks of injuries. We all know that achieving your health and fitness goals doesn’t happen by chance. It requires goals, decisions and work. Some of the work is continuing education. Reading is a great way to learn new subjects, revisit topics of interest and to grow. There are countless books about exercise, nutrition, anatomy, motivation, fitness, healthy recipes, sports, etc. You’ll increase your knowledge, and with more knowledge you’ll be able to make better decisions regarding your diet, workout program, sports performance, etc.

2. Reading is a workout for your eyes and brain. Sounds like the Lumosity.com commercial where they talk about neural connections. Well it’s true. Reading is an active process. Unlike watching television –This just made me think about my kids’ behavior after watching a couple cartoons versus after reading for thirty minutes. Can you relate? — pictures are not spoon-fed into your brain. Your eyes see the words, your brain creates images and the information is committed to memory. . . some long term and some short term.

3. Reading is good for your emotional health. Not only can you choose books that are positive, inspirational and uplifting, but for me, the very act of reading is calming. It’s more than a temporary distraction or an escape. Reading helps us to use our imagination. Just writing this reminds me that I didn’t pick up a book for fun until my second year of college. No, I didn’t have a television in my dorm room. As matter of fact, just two students in my dorm had TV’s. And this was before the Internet so I couldn’t lose myself on Youtube or Netflix. So one day I walked across the street to a strip mall and into a bookstore. I bought one book, and it took me the entire school quarter to finish it. Not because it was poorly written. I was really enjoying it. I just wasn’t in the habit of reading. After reading biology and chemistry textbooks all day, reading for fun seemed more like a chore. But I stuck with it and started reading more books by the same author. Over time I explored other authors and other genres. I can honestly say that reading books for pleasure helped get me though some difficult college courses.

It’s been over twenty years since I picked up that paperback book by Dean Koontz. Since then I have read countless books by various authors. Some were quick reads and others took several weeks. Some I have even read more than once. It’s like visiting an old friend. So the next time you’re about to watch an episode of your favorite reality TV show, first check to see what books have been sitting on your shelf. And if the shelves are bare, visit your local library.

Middleton Library