“The number one thing I think people need to do more of is long-form reading, 15 to 30 minutes of picking up any kind of book,” Willeumier says. According to the neuroscientist, reading is a long lost art—sure, you may read your fair share of texts, social media threads, and (ahem) mbg articles, but these are oftentimes short-lived experiences.
Rather, Willeumier wants you to crack open a book and become immersed in the pages, to really familiarize yourself with the characters and, you know, learn something new. “[When] the brain learns, [it] forms these cognitive maps,” she explains. “So the more reading you’re doing as you age will still keep your brain sharp.”
Let’s take a look at the science, shall we? One study found that reading novels was associated with both short and long-term connectivity in the brain; another showed that those who engaged in mentally stimulating activities like reading had slower cognitive decline later in life. On a broader scale, research has also found that learning new things (like, say, from a captivating read) can enhance memory function in older adulthood.
Willeumier says you can even elevate your brain training by “speed reading,” or learning how to scan pages faster. However, you’ll want to stick to that 15-or-so minute timestamp: According to Willeumier, it’s significant, long-form reading each day that enhances your brain health. Find a book you’re interested in (because chances are you’ll read longer!), a cozy nook, and pay attention to the pages—increased focus it turns out, has some noteworthy brain-healthy benefits as well.