It takes biking to learn: Physical activity improves learning a second language

PLoS One. 2017 May 18;12(5):e0177624. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0177624. eCollection 2017.


Recent studies have shown that concurrent physical activity enhances learning a completely unfamiliar L2 vocabulary as compared to learning it in a static condition. In this paper we report a study whose aim is twofold: to test for possible positive effects of physical activity when L2 learning has already reached some level of proficiency, and to test whether the assumed better performance when engaged in physical activity is limited to the linguistic level probed at training (i.e. L2 vocabulary tested by means of a Word-Picture Verification task), or whether it extends also to the sentence level (which was tested by means of a Sentence Semantic Judgment Task). The results show that Chinese speakers with basic knowledge of English benefited from physical activity while learning a set of new words. Furthermore, their better performance emerged also at the sentential level, as shown by their performance in a Semantic Judgment task. Finally, an interesting temporal asymmetry between the lexical and the sentential level emerges, with the difference between the experimental and control group emerging from the 1st testing session at the lexical level but after several weeks at the sentential level.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Bicycling*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Semantics
  • Young Adult

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.