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Reading Is Like Burpees for the Brain

If you want rock-hard abs, a slower heart-rate, or biceps like cantelopes, you have to exercise. (It also helps to eat right.) The point is, there are definite steps you can take to acheive your physical goals.

But what if you want to be a better human? To develop deeper empathy? To be smarter?

A recent article in The Big Think, “How reading rewires your brain for more intelligence and empathy,” argues that these goals are no different than a desire to bench-press 350. You can train and develop your most human traits through reading.

Although a quarter of American children never learn to read, recent studies show that reading helps with emotional intelligence (making smarter decisions about those around you) as well as “fluid” intelligence, or the ability to react and interact through thought-out, reasonable ways.

All of these benefits require actually reading, which leads to the formation of a philosophy rather than the regurgitation of an agenda, so prevalent in reposts and online trolling. Recognizing the intentions of another human also plays a role in constructing an ideology.

Novels are especially well-suited for this task. A 2011 study published in the Annual Review of Psychology found overlap in brain regions used to comprehend stories and networks dedicated to interactions with others.

Reading also boosts memory (important for those of us getting up there in years); helps us develop more meaningful personal relationships; and lengthens our attention span.

Banned Books Week is coming up in just a few days. What better time to make a resolution to pay as much attention to your mind as your waistline?

Get to your nearest library and read me twenty pages, recruit!