A recent study out of the University of Delaware has found that exercise can boost kids’ vocabulary growth. We know that exercise has many benefits, but this is the first study into the effect of exercise on vocabulary learning, and the results are promising.
The children selected were between the ages of 6 and 12 and were taught a number of new words before either going swimming, taking part in functional fitness exercises, or before completing a colouring sheet.1
Lead researcher, Pruitt, is a former college swimmer who now regularly takes functional fitness classes. The study came about as she wanted to prove that ‘motor movement helps in encoding new words’1, because exercise can be seen as the ‘Miracle-Gro of the brain’1.
The results were impressive. The children who swam after being introduced to new vocabulary were 13% more accurate in the follow-up vocabulary tests. However, science suggests that exercise can be attributed to helping children learn, so why was swimming more successful than functional fitness?1
Pruitt relates this to how much energy each exercise demands from the brain. For example, swimming came naturally to the children, and they didn’t have to think about it. Functional fitness movements were new to them, and they had to think about what they were doing, therefore demanding more energy from the brain and detracting from the energy available to learn new vocabulary.1
Take Home Message
Whilst we can’t promise that exercise is going to turn you into the next JK Rowling, we can’t deny the benefits that it has on your body, mental and physical health and on your ability to learn. Unfortunately, I’m not sure we have any readers between the ages of 6 and 13, but it is definitely worth bearing in mind.