Higher physical fitness levels are associated with less language decline in healthy ageing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • Pieter Segaert
  • Anne Milner
  • Matt Ryan
  • Linda Wheeldon

External organisations

  • Univ Leuven
  • Department of Foreign Languages and Translation, University of Agder, Kristiansand, Norway
  • King's College London


Healthy ageing is associated with decline in cognitive abilities such as language. Aerobic fitness has been shown to ameliorate decline in some cognitive domains, but the potential benefits for language have not been examined. In a cross-sectional sample, we investigated the relationship between aerobic fitness and tip-of-the-tongue states. These are among the most frequent cognitive failures in healthy older adults and occur when a speaker knows a word but is unable to produce it. We found that healthy older adults indeed experience more tip-of-the-tongue states than young adults. Importantly, higher aerobic fitness levels decrease the probability of experiencing tip-of-the-tongue states in healthy older adults. Fitness-related differences in word finding abilities are observed over and above effects of age. This is the first demonstration of a link between aerobic fitness and language functioning in healthy older adults.


Original languageEnglish
Article number6715
Number of pages10
JournalScientific Reports
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2018