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Newspaper Habit Can Keep You Fit

April 5th, 2019 by dk

You should read a newspaper every morning, especially if you are busy. It’s good to know what’s going on in the world, but that’s not how you benefit most from this daily habit.

Open a broadsheet newspaper and you are confronted with roughly a half dozen articles vying for your attention. Headlines, photos with captions, charts, pull quotes, capsule summaries — what will your eye? Turn the page and the process repeats.

You know one thing, first and foremost. Your time is limited. You cannot read everything. A typical Sunday edition of the New York Times has more words than two full-length novels. If you can read two novels every Sunday before brunch, you have my respect.

Most of us can’t do that. So we adapt. We complete the daily exercise without ever reading the complete newspaper — something less than every word on every page. We read some articles thoroughly, scan others, skip some others. We may read a headline and start an article before deciding the topic doesn’t interest us — or doesn’t interest us enough.

We consider certain features as daily necessities and others we never read at all, unless we’re shopping for a used car or honing our bridge game. There may be entire sections of a newspaper that we never open.

Perform this ritual every day for years and certain patterns will emerge. You’ll learn the rhythm that suits you best, always knowing you’re free to mix things up any time you choose. If you complete this exercise daily, you’ll be consistently reading and learning about things you didn’t know would interest you.

That last part is also true for people who listen to their morning news on the radio or watch it on TV. But only newspaper readers are actively choosing where their attention will alight on each page, repeating the exercise over and over, adjusting pace, standards and strategies until the allotted time is up or they’ve reached the last page.

This develops a life skill beyond literacy. It’s not the reading; it’s the choosing — page after page, day after day, always with time constraints, never reading every word. You’re strengthening your prefrontal cortex, the area of your brain where planning complex tasks and moderating social behavior takes place. Your brain is flexing its decision-making muscles, performing what’s called the “executive function.”

You need these skills everywhere. Collecting your things as you head out the door, driving a car, navigating a parking lot. In the grocery aisle, you’re comparing products and prices to your list, assembling recipes as you go — considering budget, tastes, schedules, storage, and more. It’s all executive function.

Accomplished executives will tell you that one-third of their salary is earned by the projects they complete. The other two-thirds is earned by discerning which projects they shouldn’t begin.

Newspaper reading is no different. Which two-thirds of the paper can you choose not to read, while still retaining the satisfaction of completing it every day? Because that same executive will tell you something else. No matter how completely you finish a project, tomorrow there will be more to do.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

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