What Does Watching TV vs. Reading a Good Book Do to Your Brain?

If you had to calculate how much time per day you spend watching TV vs. reading a book, what would your totals be? No fudging the numbers! If you’re like most of America, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2014 report, people over 15 watch an average of 2.5 hours of TV per day during the workweek, while only reading for leisure about a half hour.

While surfing the web and otherwise being glued to smartphones also takes up a considerable amount of leisure time, there are more and more ways to get one’s fill of their favorite shows nowadays. Yet, it’s estimated that 42 percent of college graduates will never read another book after they finish their degrees. That’s a long life of missing out on (literal) page-turners.

Are there scientific reasons as to why putting down the remote and picking up a book may be better for your health? A Japanese study earlier this year found that TV watching actually can alter the composition of your brain. Studying 276 children and teens led to the discovery that higher amounts of time in front of the tube increased frontal lobe grey matter, yet lowered verbal IQ.

Another study, however, discovered lasting positive results from reading a novel. They performed MRIs to college students before, during and after reading a novel and found increased connectivity in the parts of the brain responsible for language receptivity—so much so that the heightened connectivity was retained days later, much like “muscle memory.”

Dr. Gregory Berns, of the Emory University study, stated, “At a minimum, we can say that reading stories—especially those with strong narrative arcs—reconfigures brain networks for at least a few days. It shows how stories can stay with us. This may have profound implications for children and the role of reading in shaping their brains.” Pretty profound, indeed.

What else can reading do for the mind? A study at the University of Sussex found that participants who were stressed needed only six minutes of reading for their heart rates and muscle tension to subside. Six minutes! Overall, reading reduced stress levels by 68 percent, closely followed by listening to music (61 percent), drinking coffee (54 percent) and taking a walk (42 percent). Dr. David Lewis describes the effect, “It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination.”

With most 15-19 year-olds only reading 9 minutes per day (compared to 2.6 hours of TV) and 75 and older folks reading an hour per day (yet, 4.4 daily hours of TV), perhaps tipping the scale toward paperbacks could make a big dent in our overall stress levels. Sure, unplugging from the day in front of the tube can feel like it’s just what we need, but what if we really unplugged and, instead, picked up a good book? With websites such as Good Reads and What Should I Read Next? on our sides, this can become a (non-virtual) reality.

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262 comments

Ciro A
Ciro Arthur17 days ago

I am addicted to TV especially TV series. Now there are many options to watch Tv. You don;t need a TV to follow Tv series and Live Tv channels. Suppose, Ustvnow is a live TV streaming application that lets you watch all the american tv channels for free on your Android device. I got this from https://ustvnowapp.org and watching TV from my work place too. But after reading this article I should try to avoid watching TV and enjoy the moments. Thank you so much

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Ciro A
Ciro Arthur17 days ago

I am addicted to TV especially TV series. Now there are many options to watch Tv. You don;t need a TV to follow Tv series and Live Tv channels. Suppose, Ustvnow is a live TV streaming application that lets you watch all the american tv channels for free on your Android device. I got this from https://ustvnowapp.org and watching TV from my work place too. But after reading this article I should try to avoid watching TV and enjoy the moments. Thank you so much

SEND
Naomi D
Naomi Dreyerabout a month ago

I tried reading on a machine - but I do prefer holding a real book and turning pages.

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Naomi D
Naomi Dreyerabout a month ago

I do watch TV (but there really isn't anything good these days - all sex, foul language, killing, etc)

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Naomi D
Naomi Dreyerabout a month ago

I'm from the era of before TV when all we had were books, radio and magazines.

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William C
William C3 months ago

Thanks.

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William C
William C3 months ago

Interesting, thank you.

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Marie W
Marie W3 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Marigold A
Past Member 6 months ago

Fry your brain (assuming you're watching the rubbish offered on most channels) or stimulate your brain.

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Jerome S
Jerome S8 months ago

thanks

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