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This Is The Exact Number Of Minutes You Need To Read For Better Brain Health

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June 3, 2021
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Optimizing your brain health is no one-and-done venture. As many experts will tell you, it takes everyday interventions and a balanced, holistic approach to stay sharp throughout the years—everything from food to exercise to hydration can enhance your mental game. 

Neuroscientist and author of Biohack Your Brain Kristen Willeumier, Ph.D., would agree: "Very simple lifestyle changes, if practiced consistently, will support your brain health for a lifetime," she says on the mindbodygreen podcast. One of those simple changes? Burying your nose in a book for at least 15 minutes per day. 

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Below, Willeumier explains how poring over pages can better your brain. 

How much you should read for stellar brain health. 

"The No. 1 thing I think people need to do more of is long-form reading, 15 to 30 minutes of picking up any kind of book," Willeumier says. According to the neuroscientist, reading is a long-lost art—sure, you may read your fair share of texts, social media threads, and (ahem) mbg articles, but these are oftentimes short-lived experiences. 

Rather, Willeumier wants you to crack open a book and become immersed in the pages, to really familiarize yourself with the characters and, you know, learn something new. "[When] the brain learns, [it] forms these cognitive maps," she explains. "So the more reading you're doing as you age will still keep your brain sharp." 

Let's take a look at the science, shall we? One study found that reading novels was associated with both short- and long-term connectivity in the brain1; another showed that those who engaged in mentally stimulating activities like reading had slower cognitive decline later in life. On a broader scale, research has also found that learning new things (like, say, from a captivating read) can enhance memory function in older adulthood2.

Willeumier says you can even elevate your brain training by "speed reading," or learning how to scan pages faster. However, you'll want to stick to that 15-or-so-minute timestamp: According to Willeumier, it's significant, long-form reading each day that enhances your brain health. Find a book you're interested in (because chances are you'll read longer!), a cozy nook, and pay attention to the pages—increased focus it turns out, has some noteworthy brain-healthy benefits as well. 

The takeaway. 

When was the last time you cracked open a book? According to Willeumier, you should make long-form reading a daily practice for better brain health—for at least 15 minutes. 

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