Higher aerobic fitness levels are associated with better word production skills in healthy older adults

Investigating the relationship between aerobic fitness and tip-of-the-tongue states.

Three athletes stretching and warming up for aerobics class.
Image: Shtterstock

The benefits of aerobic exercise are numerous. For example, strengthening your heart and lungs, lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes, improve your immune function, and lower your blood pressure. Now researchers have found one more benefit of aerobic fitness.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham have discovered healthy older people who exercise regularly are less inclined to struggle to find words to express themselves. They are directly related to the incidence of age-related language failures such as ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ states.

Scientists in collaboration with the University of Agder in Norway, the University of Leuven in Belgium and King’s College London – measured the occurrence of tip-of-the-tongue states in a psycholinguistic experiment.

The examination saw a group of 28 sound grown-ups (20 ladies with the normal age of 70 and 8 men with the normal age of 67), being thought about in a ‘tip-of-the-tongue’ dialect test to 27 youngsters (19 ladies with the normal age of 23 and 8 men with the normal age of 22).

The test included a ‘definition filling task’, done on a computer. They were requested to name renowned individuals in the UK, for example, creators, legislators, and performers, in light of 20 inquiries regarding them. They were likewise given the meanings of 20 ‘low frequency’ and 20 ‘easy’ words and asked whether they knew the word identifying with the definition.

Lead author Dr. Katrien Segaert, of the University of Birmingham’s School of Psychology, said: “Older adults free from medical diseases still experience an age-related cognitive decline.

“Significantly, what we found was that the degree of decline is related to one’s aerobic fitness.”

“In our study, the higher the older adults’ aerobic fitness level, the lower the probability of experiencing a tip-of-the-tongue state.”

“Importantly, our results also showed that the relationship between the frequency of tip-of-the-tongue occurrences and aerobic fitness levels exists over and above the influence of a person’s age and vocabulary size.”

Older adults sometimes stress that tip-of-the-tongue states show genuine memory issues yet this is a misinterpretation: tip-of-the-tongue states are not related to dementia. Indeed, they have a substantially bigger vocabulary than youthful grown-ups. Rather, tip-of-the-tongue states happen when the significance of a word is accessible in our memory, however, the sound type of the word can incidentally not be gotten to.

Dr. Segaert said, “Accessing the sound forms of words is essential for successful and fluent language production, and its disruption has very noticeable negative consequences for older adults. The study would add gravitas to the public health message that regular exercise is important to ensure healthy aging.”

She added: “There are a lot of findings already on the benefits of aerobic fitness and regular exercise, and our research demonstrates another side of the benefits, namely a relationship between fitness and language skills. We were able to show, for the first time, that the benefits of aerobic fitness extend to the domain of language.”

“Maintaining good language skills is extremely important for older adults. Older adults frequently have word finding difficulties and they experience these as particularly irritating and embarrassing.”

“Speaking is a skill we all rely on every day. Communication with others helps us maintain social relationships and independence into old age.”

The research is published today in Scientific Reports.