Bob Bestler

Relax, read a book (or a newspaper column). Here’s how it could help you live longer.

In recent months, I’ve realized our McClellanville home had gotten so overrun by books that I packed up six boxes and donated them to a local library. I can only hope they all find readers.
In recent months, I’ve realized our McClellanville home had gotten so overrun by books that I packed up six boxes and donated them to a local library. I can only hope they all find readers. ajohnson@newsobserver.com

If you’re reading this, you can relax. Oh, wait. If you’re reading this, you’re already relaxed.

At least that’s what the experts say about reading. It’s the world’s greatest stress reducer — and it doesn’t matter if you’re reading my humble scribbling or the great “Moby Dick.”

Just the act of letting your thoughts flow into another world can cure whatever’s got you all uptight.

Indeed, a study by the University of Sussex in Great Britain showed that reading even six minutes a day reduces stress by 68 percent — ranking right up there with listening to music (not rap or hard rock, maybe?) and walking.

A 2016 study by the Yale School of Public Health also found that reading can make you live longer. Unfortunately, you have to be a book reader, not a reader of fly-by-night newspaper columns.

Yale studied 3,635 people aged 50 and older and found said that reading a book for 30 minutes a day added two years to one’s life span.

Readers of books had a 20-percent lower chance of dying during a 12-year period than those who read magazines or newspapers or non-readers — and it keeps them healthy in ways other activities do not.

“Reading may keep the mind active enough to prevent a decline in thinking and processing — what’s known as cognition — that is associated with a variety of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s,” said Avni Bavishi of the Yale study.

Reading, he says, builds extra processing power that compensates for the loss of brain cells due to aging or disease. (No, it says nothing about the second 5 o’clock martini as a brain-cell menace.)

Other research found what ought to seem obvious: Reading improves vocabulary, reasoning, concentration, empathy and social perception.

I’m not sure how smart any of this makes me, but I’m proud to say I’m about half-way through the 959-pages of “Grant,” while turning occasionally to “The Soul of America” and, purely for entertainment, “The First Major: The Inside Story of the 2016 Ryder Cup.” Several other books, old and new, remain on tap.

The bride and I love books so much that we once gave up our professional careers to open a bookstore. We thought it might give us a chance to read a little more, but that didn’t happen. I didn’t read an entire book, in fact, until we sold the store seven years later.

In recent months, I’ve realized our McClellanville home had gotten so overrun by books that I packed up six boxes and donated them to the Charleston County Library. I can only hope they all find readers.

I saw in a recent magazine called The Costco Connection that Warren Buffet reads at least 500 pages a day. Wow. He truly gives life to the adage: “Readers are leaders and leaders are readers.”

Wouldn’t we all like to pass those words on to our grandchildren?

Contact Bob Bestler at bestler6@tds.net

  Comments