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Health & Exercise Forum

Reading for health: Part 2 of 2

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Dec 26, 2016

Dr. Mackarey's Health & Exercise ForumHealthy Holiday Gift Idea…a Book! Part 2 of 2

A recent study in the journal, Social Science & Medicine, found that reading books is linked to living longer! So, give a healthy holiday gift…a book! (See Part 1)

While it does not appear obvious at first glance, the Lackawanna County Library System’s Library Lecture Series contributes to the health and wellness in NEPA. For the past several years, I have had the pleasure of meeting with a group of volunteers to discuss books and authors with the hope of engaging authors to speak to the residents of Lackawanna County. Since 2005, the “Library Lecture Series,” which takes at Scranton Cultural Center several times throughout the year, has improved the quality of life for thousands of library card holders, free of charge. Attendees have had the pleasure and benefit of being enlightened by historian David McCullough, novelist Salman Rushdie, children’s book author and television personality Henry Winkler, presidential historian Michael Beschloss, deep sea explorer Robert Ballard, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, Civil War historian James McPherson and many others.

So how does the Lackawanna County Library System’s Library Lecture Series improve health and wellness in NEPA? While the libraries are not staffed with health care providers, by promoting reading, they are fostering health and wellness…a recent study in the journal, Social Science & Medicine, found that reading books is linked to living longer!

Over 3,500 participants, 50 years and older, were engaged in a large research study on health and wellness. Subjects were divided into three groups: non-readers of books; readers up to 3-4 hours per week; readers of more than 3-4 hours per week. The results found that group three, readers of more than 3-4 hours per week, tended to be college educated females from higher income groups. However, when adjusting for education and wealth, the health and wellness results were staggering. Readers of up to 3-4 hours per week were 17% less likely to die and readers of more than 3-4 hours per week were 23% less likely to die compared to non-readers. Readers of newspapers demonstrated a similar but weaker trend.

It is often said that when a word has been created to describe something in a society it reflects a substantial current trend or cultural impact. Bibliotherapy is a term used to describe the practice of using books as therapy in the treatment of mental or psychological disorders. It is also advocated for individuals undergoing a difficult time in their lives such as divorce, career transition or illness.


 Improve/Maintain Cognitive Skills

 The simple act of reading stimulates the brain in a way that challenges the neurotransmitters of the brain. Some studies show that readers score higher on cognitive tests at younger ages and demonstrate fewer declines with aging.

Improve Life Journey

 As my friend, Dr. Jim Haggerty says, “Reading makes you a more interesting person.” I might add, reading also makes your life more interesting! A good book allows you to travel and experience the world. While I have never sculled a boat on Puget Sound in Washington State, the book, “Boys in the Boat,” by Daniel James Brown, made me feel as if I were there, struggling to row and feeling the burn as the high winds power washed my face with rain. I often think about it on a windy, overcast spring day while rowing my kayak at Lackawanna State Park, making the challenge more interesting.

Improve Sleep

 According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), insufficient sleep is a public health problem, effecting as many as 50-70 million Americans. The problem leads to poor work and school performance, as well as accidents while operating motor vehicles. Reading has been found to help the body unwind and prepare for sleep, as long as the subject matter is not too upsetting. Also, readers are advised to read a hard copy or an electronic device with a night light setting to prevent overstimulation.

Improve Relaxation

Reading not only relaxes you to sleep better, it also relaxes you during the day. Studies show that readers benefit from a lower blood pressure, heart rate, and respiratory rate while reading. It is not uncommon for a reader to say, “I got lost in the book?” Reading can be a great escape from everyday pressures and demands. I am a fairly hyperactive person, but my family is amazed at my ability to sit on the beach for 8 or more hours. It would not be possible without the help of a good book and lots of breaks for swimming, walking, can jam, and bocce ball.

 Improve Mental State

 A recent study from the University of Manchester showed that those suffering from depression can benefit from self-help books and books with uplifting and pleasant subject matter, in addition to typical treatment such as support groups.

Rethink Healthy Holiday Gifts!

So, if you want to give a healthy gift, but can’t afford an expensive treadmill, elliptical or electronic fitness tracker, GIVE A BOOK…AND PROMOTE LONGEVITY!

Contributor: Mary Garm, Administrator, Lackawanna County Library System


NEXT MONDAY – Read Dr. Paul J. Mackarey “Health & Exercise Forum” in Scranton-Times Tribune.

This article is not intended as a substitute for medical treatment. If you have questions related to your medical condition, please contact your family physician. For further inquires related to this topic email: drpmackarey@msn.comPaul J. Mackarey PT, DHSc, OCS is a Doctor in Health Sciences specializing in orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. Dr. Mackarey is in private practice and is an associate professor of clinical medicine at The Commonwealth Medical College.