Children Exercising © Mareen Fischinger/Westend61/Cover Images

Latest: Exercise ‘may help boost children’s vocabulary growth’

Physical activity such as swimming can boost children’s vocabulary growth, according to new research.


Children Exercising © Mareen Fischinger/Westend61/Cover Images

Researchers from the University of Delaware have conducted one of the first studies to examine the effect of exercise on children’s ability to learn vocabulary.

The team recruited children aged between six and 12 who were taught new words before doing one of three activities – swimming, taking part in CrossFit exercises, or completing a colouring sheet.

Afterwards, they were given follow-up tests on the words, and those who swam were 13% more accurate on their quiz.

Why does swimming work over CrossFit exercise?

Explaining the reasoning behind the finding, lead researcher Maddy Pruitt said, “Motor movement helps in encoding new words,” adding that exercise is known to increase levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a key molecule involved in changes related to learning and memory.

However, that doesn’t explain why swimming helped but CrossFit exercises didn’t. Pruitt believes this is due to the amount of energy each exercise demands of the brain.

While swimming can be done without much thought or instruction, the CrossFit exercises were new to the children and more mentally taxing.

Research to be expanded

Pruitt’s adviser and co-author Giovanna Morini is now looking to expand this research in her lab and discover more about how exercise impacts language acquisition.

“We were so excited about this study because it applies to clinicians, caregivers, and educators who can put it into practice,” Morini said.

“It’s simple stuff, nothing out of the ordinary. But it could really help boost the outcomes.”

The findings were published in the Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research.

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