Learning Chinese After Exercise

Photo via on Visual hunt

Sometimes I really wonder what it is that defines “me” as a person, considering how much my experience of life is constantly shifting. A simple example of this is how I feel going into the gym vs leaving it. I’m pretty much an entirely different person.

This is not all that surprising, considering that my experience is based on my consciousness, my consciousness (as far as we know) comes mainly from my brain, and by making my body expend loads of energy in the form of exercise, the environment my brain lives is has just gone through a pretty radical change. Major systems in my body have suddenly activated, causing the chemical cocktail that my brain is dealing with to change massively. No wonder I feel so different after a workout.

Picture from Meghan Fay's awesome Fitness Blog

Picture from Meghan Fay's awesome Fitness Blog

So what does this have to do with learning? Researchers at University of British Columbia found that aerobic exercise can actually boost the size of you hippocampus, which is the part of your brain most responsible for verbal memory and learning. Literally makes it bigger. How do you suppose that would help something like, say, remembering how to read, write and pronounce a Chinese character? 

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Its actually possible to grow new brain cells, and because exercise can reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors, you can grow new blood vessels in the brain as well as grow neurons. Part of what makes this neurogenesis possible is the increased production of a protein called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) after exercise. If you want a very easily understandable and enjoyable explanation about this process, I'd recommend watching this video from the YouTube channel "What I've Learned". All of this jargon can be summed up by simply saying that exercise makes your brain a better version of itself, and that improves learning and memory. 

Guys what I’m getting at here is that you need to put your brain in the right chemical environment to do what it does well, which includes acquiring language. Trust your brain, and care for it. Learning language is, on so many levels, a subconscious process. We can, of course, consciously learn individual facts, but language acquisition is much more a process of bathing your brain in the new information, and letting it react naturally, so what kind of meat computer do you want? The one with upgrades and new software? Or the old slowly deteriorating corporate Dell?