How Exercise Makes You a Better Um… What’s That Word?

Exploring Intensity

How Exercise Makes You a Better Um… What’s That Word?

Trying to find a word that lurks on the tip of your tongue can be so frustrating, especially when you’re trying to tell a story and you can’t figure out a word that’s key to the tale. Sometimes you may feel like you’d be willing to pay five bucks every time you needed that word to actually exit your mouth.

But what if exercise could help?

Researchers at the University of Birmingham decided to see if people would have an easier time recalling words, if they exercised a little more. They recruited 28 men and women between the ages of 60 and 80 with varied levels of physical fitness.

The older subjects sat next to 20-somethings and were tested on who could come up with the word that a definition was describing on a screen. The younger folk did better, not surprisingly, and that is very much related to the senior’s brains and difficulty remembering words quickly enough. But it wasn’t a uniform issue, according to this article:

Within the older group, the inability to identify and say the right words was strongly linked to fitness. The more fit someone was, the less likely he or she was to go through a “what’s that word again?” moment of mental choking.

Does that mean, definitively, that exercise helps you recall a word more quickly? Not just yet, there is only a possible connection. The researchers want to do brain scans next to see if exercise really is the thing allowing older people to yank these words out of their heads. But if that difficulty remembering this word or that frustrates you to no end, put down the dictionary and put on your running shoes.

-Shane M.

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