Your brain needs to workout too

Whilst I while away hours and hours reading books, there are those who put the time to a different use. They develop their bodies. They are regularly in the gym, working out. They are jogging and stretching. They are engaged in yogic positions and aerobic pursuits. They eat carefully and with discernment. That is their priority; that is how they expend their precious time.

If those folks came to me to convince me to join them, they would encounter great resistance, both passive and aggressive. I will not be found on a treadmill or a jogging path anytime soon. I admire those who can do this; but I do not wish to be in their number.

And yet, if I rejected the entire premise of looking after one’s body with physical exercise, I would be the fool. I will never run a marathon or bench-press any substantial weight, but doing the minimum physical activity is simply a necessity. Some daily brisk walking, some light stretching, some avoidance of a preponderance of junk food is not remarkable or virtuous — it’s just sensible.

So it is with book reading. Unless you’re a hard-nosed bookworm, I don’t ask that you read 50 books every year — or even 25. Even if you are averse to books and have never really picked one up since school, you will benefit from doing the bare minimum. It helps the mind to be immersed in a long read, in a single topic or story, for a period of time. It’s good exercise. It aids you in thinking a little deeper, and in broadening your perspectives.

Mental exercise
That necessary minimum, in my humble suggestion, is 12 books per year, just one per month. Even if you are the world’s most reluctant book reader, I have a method for you. Read just 10 pages every day. No more. Stop after the tenth page. That requires just 10-20 minutes per day. You know you can find that time. But will you? There’s no compulsion. It’s a choice.

Doing at least the minimum physical exercise our bodies need helps us to gain a better quality of life, and to forestall unnecessary ailments. It’s the same with mental exercise.

Thinking more deeply by engaging in long-form reading builds our neural plasticity and keeps our synapses firing. If our reading is wide enough, it aids our tolerance of different perspectives. It makes us more open and more effective.

Ignore the big numbers; don’t be daunted by the big readers. Choose a good book — not one that just transfers the equivalent of junk food to the written page. Then just sit down and read your 10 pages for today. Do the same tomorrow, and you may just find that even this gentlest of workouts is giving you new vigour.

Mental stimulation
There are studies that have shown that mentally stimulating your mind, through reading, can actually help slow the progress of Alzheimer’s and Dementia. When you keep your brain active and engaged, you are helping to stop it from losing its power, the power it needs to help you critically think and problem solve.

Your brain requires just as much exercise as the rest of your body to stay healthy, strong, and agile. Following intellectual pursuits has been known to have a 32 per cent slower rate of cognitive decline. Besides reading, puzzles and playing games are great ways to exercise your mind. (