If you are one of those who have always had problems learning English and you do not know what to do to change that “average level” that you have in your CV, it may be time to change your way of learning the language and sign up for the gym.
What? To the gym? Yes, at least that holds a study that ensures that physical activity during a foreign language lesson amplifies the ability to memorize and understand new vocabulary. These conclusions confirm the hypothesis, always stronger, that to make the mind work, it is necessary to move the body.
Thus, several studies assure that we learn in a different way if, at the same time that we study, we develop a physical activity. For example, it has been found that laboratory mice that can run on the wheel have a better memory than sedentary ones. According to several types of research, students obtain better results in the exams if they carry out some physical activity during class time.
But what is the link between movement and learning? Most researchers hypothesize that physical exercise alters the biology of the brain in such a way that it makes it more malleable and receptive to new information, a process that scientists define as plasticity. However, there are still several unanswered questions, including the question of whether the sport is beneficial, before, during or after learning or also how much and what kind of movements are better.
Now, the study published in PLOS One, carried out by researchers from China and Italy, goes a step further in this regard. For this, it focuses on the learning process of a foreign language.
As children, more or less we all learn a new language easily, quickly assimilating concepts and words. But when older, the brain begins to lose its innate linguistic capacity. In this way, less plasticity manifests in the areas of the brain related to language. Consequently, for most of us, it is more difficult to learn a second language after childhood.
To assess the effect of physical exercise on learning ability, the researchers took 40 Chinese students who were trying to learn English. All were familiar with learning a second language but we’re far from having a satisfactory level. The participants were divided into two groups, some followed the English lessons as they had always done; that is, sitting and memorizing the vocabulary, while the other group followed it with the same method but adding physical activity. In particular, the students went by bicycle at a moderate pace (to about 60% of their maximum aerobic capacity). They started 20 minutes before the English lessons and continued another 15 minutes later.
Both groups learned the new vocabulary by looking at a group of words that were projected on a large screen next to the figures that represented them. 40 words were shown for each lesson and each sequence was repeated several times. When finished, tests were performed to check the learning. Researchers found that at the end of each lesson, students who rode bikes had better test results than those who had been sitting. And not only that, but the progress made in learning the new vocabulary was maintained for a longer time in the group of cyclists.
“These results suggest that physical activity developed while learning something new improves learning. In addition, the improvement in learning not only refers to the memorization of new words but also to the understanding of how they are used in a conversation, “explains Simone Sulpizio, professor of psychology and linguistics and co-author of the study. “It has been discovered that physical exercise stimulates the creation of numerous neurochemicals in the brain that increase the number of new brain cells and the connections between neurons. These effects improve the plasticity of the brain and increase your ability to learn. “
Therefore, moving while studying works. Although it could be impractical. What to do? Change desks for stationary bicycles? Actually, the researcher points out, it would not be necessary: ”We are not suggesting that schools and teachers have to acquire a bicycle, an easier message, is that teaching should be flanked by a physical activity because it is clear to be sitting for hours without moving is not the best way to learn. “