Why exercise can put you on the fast track to being fluent in French

Studies show that keeping fit improves the speed at which new vocabulary is learnt

There is good evidence to suggest that exercise alters our brain’s chemistry
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What if I told you that getting better at French was as easy as riding a bike?

Or, at least, made easier if you ride a bike.

Studies have shown that aerobic exercise, such as walking, cycling or swimming. while practising vocabulary can improve learning.

As many can testify, children seem to pick up languages more easily than adults.

As we age, we lose some of the plasticity in the area of our brain used for language acquisition.

Exercise alters brain chemistry

However, there is good evidence to suggest exercise can help alter our brain chemistry, making it better able to receive and retain new information.

For those of us used to sitting in a classroom or at a desk to study, the idea of learning while we move might seem alien, but there are plenty of painless ways to get started.

If you are learning at home via an app, podcast or CDs, it should be easy to mix exercise with language learning.

Try popping on headphones and going for a walk while studying your verbs, or practising your aural comprehension while cruising on your exercise bike.

If your French lessons take place in a class or group, however, incorporating a physical element requires a little more creativity.

Try spending the 20 minutes beforehand taking part in high-intensity exercise, such as running, walking uphill/stairs, skipping or speed-walking.

A study in 2017 concluded that doing such exercise before studying a language could improve the speed at which new vocabulary is learnt by 20%.

If you feel able to, you could also talk to your teacher about taking one-to-one lessons while out walking together, or moving about during the class – perhaps to carry out conversations with different individuals.

Many teachers will be receptive to something new, and it might make a sedentary class more fun for all.

If you are someone who is more inclined to coffee than cardio before a lesson, the idea of pounding the treadmill followed by studying verb tenses might be overwhelming.

Why not incorporate exercise into your home study during the week instead?

Make notes during your regular lesson and revise these in your own time.

Perhaps record your weekly verbs or crib sheet on to an audio file, then pop on the headphones and go for a jog.

Benefit brain and body

Remember that your brain will benefit from a workout just as much as the rest of your body.

Challenge yourself with a word or number game.

Puzzles such as cryptic crosswords help to enhance memory, which should keep your brain in better shape for learning.

Studying something new, taking music lessons or learning to cook different dishes are other ways we can help our brain to become more receptive to new information.

Finally, do not dismiss the impact that stress can have on our minds and bodies.

Finding something to help keep anxiety to a minimum, such as yoga, meditation or taking walks in the countryside, could keep your mental cogs in tip-top condition for all those subjunctive conjugations.

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