Readers Enjoy Mental and Physical Benefits from Books


A graduate of St. John’s University, Melville, NY, resident Ellen Scharaga earned her BS in pharmacology before embarking on a career as an executive for multiple pharmaceutical development companies. Currently an operational consultant with Alegria Specialty Pharmacy, Ellen Scharaga spends her free time participating in activities such as reading. While enjoying books can be a relaxing pastime, it also can provide readers with a number of benefits.

Brain Power
Engaging in reading can activate not only the pleasure centers of the brain, but also the brain areas that engage when participants focus on executive function. These areas are associated with multiple complex cognitive functions. When a person reads, the activity can increase the brain’s capacity for memory by exercising areas that cause it to concentrate.

Stress Relief
In addition to stimulating mental function, reading can alleviate the stress hormone cortisol, the body’s natural hormonal response to stress. While cortisol usually acts as a defense against stress hormones, a chronic amount of the hormone can lead to long-term problems.

Expanded Knowledge
Reading serves as an individual’s gateway to cultures and concepts outside of what he or she typically experiences. By reading novels and nonfiction pieces on subjects outside of one’s own immediate sphere of knowledge, a reader is exposed to new concepts and ideas.


The Alternative Benefits of Reading

As senior vice president of operations at OncoMed Pharmaceutical Services, Ellen Scharaga grew the operations staff by 50 percent while improving prescription turnaround time by 30 percent. During her free time, Ellen Scharaga, a Melville, NY, resident, enjoys reading and contributes to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

As children, our parents attempt to impart the importance of reading to us. They know that reading improves our language skills and nurtures our imaginations by allowing us to visit times and places we otherwise would never see. However, new research has shown that reading has a number of previously unreported positive effects. A 2009 study, for example, revealed that reading is one of the most successful pastimes for combating stress.

While reading for educational purposes is nothing new, analysts have discovered that a lifetime of reading can improve brain function later in life, and that reading can potentially help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. Finally, sleep experts almost unanimously recommend reading before bed as a sleep aid. Not only does the reduction of stress play a part, but time away from television and computer screens allows your brain to relax, wind down, and prepare to rest for the night.