News Feb 10th 2017

Can Exercising Help You Learn a Language?

In recent times, the scientific community has made huge strides in examining what kind of benefits regular exercise can have outside of the obvious physical health that comes with working out every single day. Two of the most major recent breakthroughs have been studies that have shown to prove that exercise can have positive effects on several different serious brain conditions such as Parkinson's disease, stroke and Alzheimer's. Excitingly, further research is now being undertaken by the University of Queensland to examine the possibility that exercise can improve the language learning skills of older adults.

The new study is being fronted by Professor David Copland, a researcher at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Queensland, and they are looking for a total of 75 participants, aged between 60 and years of age, who speak English as their first language. Professor Copland is passionate about the possibilities that the research project might bring for the future of language and re-learning education not just for older people but for people of all ages. He gave this brief statement about the positive ambitions of the research:

“Exercise is known to be important for maintaining and improving cognition in late adulthood.

We're interested in working out what types of exercise are best for improving learning.

By recruiting older adults, our goal is to translate our findings to clinical populations of the same age.

Understanding how exercise affects language learning could eventually lead to the development of the new approaches to improve language re-learning in people with brain conditions such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.”

This potentially ground breaking study is being conducted at the University of Queensland's St Lucia campus located in Brisbane, and participants will be asked to attend three different sessions across the space of two weeks. Each session will involve the participants undergoing a cognitive assessment, an overall fitness assessment, three blood samples, one of either a stretching exercise or a period of high intensity cycling and then finally a brief language task. To ensure that the exercise portion of the study is conducted in as professional a capacity as possible, all of the participants undertaking the research process will receive a free fitness assessment from an accredited, official, professional exercise physiologist.

Professor Copland continues in his statement:

“It's believed that the body responds to one session of exercise by inducing changes in the blood, changes that are thought to increase the brain's capacity to learn.

In order to assess these changes, a certified phlebotomist will take blood samples at different time points.

After exercising, participants will be asked to complete a task that consists of learning new words.”

Of course, if this new study produces results that indicate regular exercise does indeed have a positive impact on the re-learning of language after a significant brain injury, then the ramifications and potential implications for future enhancement and progression in the area are almost endless. Once general results are achieved and analyzed, experts can then begin to work on singling out particular exercises and particular patterns of exercise that are most effective in boosting brain activity and helping to make language learning a more fruitful process. Though this particular study is directed towards finding results in older people, there is nothing to say that the data found won't be able to help younger people who have suffered from brain injuries and need to start their own journey with re-learning the English language.

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