LIVE MASTERCLASS: 7 Strategies For Parents To Help Your Child Earn $100,000 College Scholarships & Ace The New 2024 Digital SAT. Enroll Free!

How To Learn Vocabulary Words 20% Faster

It’s no secret that our physical health impacts our brain health. But, did you know that a few minutes of physical exercise could help you learn better and faster?

Read on to learn more about the integral connection between exercise and enhanced cognitive function as well as how you can use physical activity alongside other study techniques to take your study sessions to a whole new level.

Physical Exercise for Better Recall

In 2006, a study was created to assess learning performance in relation to physical activity. A group of 27 healthy individuals was asked to study novel vocabulary words after performing one of 3 tasks: “high impact anaerobic sprints, low impact aerobic running, or a period of rest.” Those who performed the high impact exercises learned the vocabulary words 20% faster than those who participated in low impact or no exercise. Thus, it’s highly likely that physical activity may increase short-term learning success.

These results may be from an increase in brain derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. BDNF is a protein encoded by the BDNF gene that plays a part in cognitive function as well as neuronal development and synaptic plasticity. Studies suggest that BDNF is a key molecule involved in the plastic changes related to learning and memory; it is an “essential regulator of cellular processes that underlie cognition and other complex behaviors.” 

Clearly, increased levels of BDNF like those found in the high impact exercisers from the 2007 study could lead to better short-term learning success. Further research indicates that a certain type of molecule released after exercise may be responsible for promoting the increased production of BDNF. For these reasons, exercising before studying may be a useful strategy for enhancing your learning abilities, whether you’re learning new vocabulary or studying for a test.

Enhancing Memory and Cognitive Function with Physical Activity

You may also gain learning benefits from BDNF by doing light exercise while you study. A 2014 experiment set out to further assess the impact of physical activity on recall by comparing the foreign-vocabulary recall abilities of 2 groups of individuals. The first group studied the vocabulary while at rest, and the other group studied while performing low impact motor activity such as walking. Those who were physically active during their study session demonstrated better vocabulary recall than those who remained at rest. The experiment concluded that light physical activity while encoding new vocabulary should help with recall.

So, the next time you need to quiz yourself on your vocabulary words, why not take a walk outside or on a treadmill? Many study apps can even read your flashcards out loud to you so you can keep an eye on your surroundings and stay safe.

Some studies have also indicated that the areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning are larger in those who exercise regularly. In fact, a 6 to 12 month regimen of regular exercise may be enough to see a sizable volume increase in those regions of the brain.

Beyond learning, exercise may have the potential to boost memory in general, including implicit and emotional memory. Research suggests that acute exercise improves memory function across the entire human lifespan, from children to young adults to older adults. Just a small amount of exercise could make the difference not only on your next test, but also well into your future as you take care of your brain and keep your memory strong.

Remember to talk to a physician before starting any new exercise routine.

Other Strategies to Boost Your Study Sessions

Going for a walk isn’t the only way to enhance your learning abilities. Here are 5 more study strategies you can use to make the most of your valuable study time.

1. Engage in Active Studying

Studying should be more than just reading. Reading over text and highlighting may be a good starting place, especially when you have a lot of material to cover that you may not have studied in a few weeks or even months. However, if you want to really take in the material, you’ll have to engage in more in depth study practices.

Here are some examples of active study techniques you can use:

  • Rewrite, paraphrase, or speak the information out loud.
  • Map out the information with diagrams and symbols.
  • Create your own quiz or study guide to answer.

There are tons of study techniques out there, so try them all and see what works best for your unique learning habits.

2. Try Shorter, More Intense Sessions

Staying up all night to cram for a test is almost never a good idea. Not only will you be too exhausted to perform to your best ability, but it’s also very likely that you won’t retain much of what you study. Rather than pushing everything off to one long session, break your studying up into smaller, more focused sessions in the weeks leading up to an exam. You may even find it useful to spend a small amount of time studying each day throughout the semester.

3. Find the Right Environment

Everyone learns differently. You might find that, although your friends study well in the library or their room, those areas are too quiet for you. Or, you may feel the exact opposite, with even soft background noise drawing your attention away from your work. 

Pay attention to your study habits. What environmental factors help or hinder your progress? Does the quiet hustle and bustle of a busy café help you zone in or are you too busy watching the people passing through? Is the library too warm or cold? Are the chairs creaky or uncomfortable? Consider these factors as you create an environment that allows you to truly focus without sensory distractions.

4. Focus on One Task at a Time

You may be tempted to multitask, especially when you have a lot to do. But, if you want to retain the information you’re learning, you should aim to focus entirely on one task at a time. That includes pausing your study session for things like answering texts, snacking, scrolling through social media, etc. Rather than stopping every few minutes to check your phone, put any unneeded devices away for the duration of your session, then reward yourself with a long break when you’re finished.

5. Talk About What You’re Studying

A great way to engage with your material is to explain it to someone else who doesn’t know anything about it. Sit down with a friend, sibling, or parent, and chat with them about what you’re currently studying. They might ask you questions you hadn’t previously considered or prompt you to explain concepts in a new way, truly putting your knowledge to the test and showing you any gaps that you may have missed during your sessions.

PrepExpert is committed to helping students achieve the educational success they need to accomplish their lifelong goals. For more information about how to make the most out of your valuable study sessions, check out our blog or sign up for a course taught by one of our expert instructors.

Prep Expert

Written by Prep Expert

More from Prep Expert