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Reading fiction flexes the brain, study says
Research says opening a good novel can be healthy for the brain. - photo by Erin Goff
We know physical workouts keep our muscles healthy, but mental fitness is just as important.

And researchers say opening up a good book can be good for your brain.

At Sagewood at Daybreak, they take their reading pretty serious, with an extensive library and a book club.

"I read two or three books a month because it helps me stay alert and I think as we get older our minds need to be fed," said 81-year-old Carol Smeltzer.

Evelyn Foster, 93 years old said, "Oh, your imagination can run away with you."

And that's why some researchers are prescribing a good book.

"Reading, especially fiction stimulates the neurons, the brain cells, and it stimulates especially the left side of the brain," Intermountain Southridge Clinic geriatric Dr. John Lassere said.

In a study out of Emory University, researchers found diving into a novel enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function.

"It's good if you increase the function of the brain ahead of time because then therefore if you have a problem with cognitive impairment down the road you have more reserve," Lassere said.

Reading can also improve your social skills, empathy and relationships with others. Smeltzer, who just finished reading the best-selling novel, "Wonder," agrees.

"You learn that you've got to be more thoughtful and understanding to people that are mentally and physically handicapped," Smeltzer said.

This month, the book club is listening to an audiobook, taking notes and discussing the characters while opening their minds and exercising a lifetime of memories.

Dr. Lassere also reminds the public that for good overall brain health, you also should eat healthy, exercise and control your blood pressure.