Reading: The guilty pleasure that could save your memory

For many of us, there’s nothing better than getting lost in a book.

Whether it’s cold outside and you’re curled up by the fire… the rain is pouring down and you’re listening to the thunder crash as you turn the pages… or you’re just finished up a chapter at bedtime — reading is a great way to transport yourself to another world.

And according to researchers at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, that’s not all reading can do for you.

In fact, researchers say that reading may be the best thing you can do to hold onto your memory as you age…

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How did they come to this conclusion? Researchers conducted a study in tandem with the Champaign Public Library, which investigated the potential benefits of reading on memory.

To start, older participants were recruited and assessed at The Adult Learning Lab at the Beckman Institute for different cognitive skills, particularly their working and episodic memory skills — mental abilities on which reading depends.

If you’re like me, anytime you read a book and put it down, you might have to reread the previous chapter to remember what happened last. This is where strengthening episodic memory can help. Working memory is like multi-tasking — being able to “hold onto” things in your mind while engaging in other mental processes. Both of these skills decline with age.

But can reading regularly help you retain them?

To find out, the team put together a special collection of interesting and engaging books across multiple fiction and non-fiction genres — choosing books more likely to engage the readers and keep them flipping those pages.

Then it was on…

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Reading is fundamental for strengthening memory

The study group spent 90 minutes a day, five days a week, for eight weeks reading those stories. At the end of the period, they were reassessed and compared to another group who spent the same amount of time doing word puzzles.

 “We controlled as much as we could between the activities except for the ‘magic juice,’” said Beckman researcher Liz Stine-Morrow, “which is getting immersed in a story.”

And the results were impressive — at least for the group that immersed themselves in reading.

The researchers found that in comparison to the puzzle group, the “book club” group showed significant improvement in both their episodic and working memory.

When asked to sum up the results, Stine-Morrow had this to say, “There’s more promise in engaging fully in the stimulating things that we already do in our lives. That’s probably the best pathway to maintaining our mental ability and offsetting the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Put simply, if you want to keep your memory sharp as you age, read a book!

And for additional support, if you feel your forgetfulness gets the best of you sometimes, check out these tips from Virginia Tims-Lawson on how she finally got a steel trap memory in her 50s.


Reading for pleasure can strengthen memory in older adults, Beckman researchers find – Beckman Institute

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

By Dr. Adria Schmedthorst

Dr. Adria Schmedthorst is a board-certified Doctor of Chiropractic, with more than 20 years of experience. She has dedicated herself to helping others enjoy life at every age through the use of alternative medicine and natural wellness options. Dr. Schmedthorst enjoys sharing her knowledge with the alternative healthcare community, providing solutions for men and women who are ready to take control of their health the natural way.