A key finding was how the two complement each other: "Aerobic activity and reasoning training are both valuable tools that give your brain a boost in different ways." In essence what they found, not surprisingly, was that mental training/exercise, like Luminosity, improves executive functions (planning and decision making); whereas physical exercise enhances memory.
So, how might enhancing general cognitive and physical conditioning improve learning pronunciation? As opposed to other dimensions of language learning, pronunciation involves a unique degree of physical engagement. In adults, that must generally be balanced with effective conscious, cognitive involvement (explanation, insight, discovery, planning, communicative practice, etc.) What the research suggests is that although cognitive training and engagement should be good for the brain (and pronunciation), without sufficient, "body engagement and training" learners, especially adults, may not be able to remember well what they have been taught.
My guess is that before long we will be doing much more specifically non-language related cognitive and (and even aerobic) physical training in preparing students and maintaining optimal brain conditioning for learning. Many programs and methods do that now randomly or intuitively, but the research points toward much more systematic and targeted training approaches.
For example, Marsha Chan's entertaining "Pronunciation workout" videos attempt to use high energy, highly kinaesthetic exercises to get the body and motivation activated in learning sounds and selected prosodics (e.g., rhythm and stress). What the cognitive/physical training study suggests is that "fun" may motivate and present aspects of pronunciation well, but the critical connection to that sound pattern may be weak, at best, in part because kinesthetic/body experience is remembered more as a whole--not just isolated pieces of the "moving" event. As Willingham (2005) puts it: "What is critical is that the child is taught in the content's modality." (not simply in her preferred or isolated modality such audio or visual or kinesthetic.)
What cognitive science has taught us is that children do differ in their abilities with different modalities, but teaching the child in his best modality doesn't affect his educational achievement. What does matter is whether the child is taught in the content's best modality. - See more at: http://www.aft.org/ae/summer2005/willingham#sthash.CvS6lakm.dpuf
What cognitive science has taught us is that children do differ in their abilities with different modalities, but teaching the child in his best modality doesn't affect his educational achievement. What does matter is whether the child is taught in the content's best modality. - See more at: http://www.aft.org/ae/summer2005/willingham#sthash.CvS6lakm.dpufAnd what is the "content modality" of pronunciation in teaching? A delicate balance of cognitive and kinesthetic engagement. In practical terms, one implication of the research is that we too often, to paraphrase Damasio (2005), commit "Decartes' error" of separating mind from the body ("I think, therefore, I am learning pronunciation!") For most learners, understanding and insight (at least in pronunciation teaching) must be well-integrated with physical, experiential learning and practice if new sound is to be efficiently remembered and available later in spontaneous speaking and listening.
A complementary approach balanced with Nike's nonsequitur--"Just do it!, is essential. If you are not sure about how to make that happen in your classroom, one way is to "Just ask (your neighborhood haptician)!"
Center for BrainHealth. "Mental, physical exercises produce distinct brain benefits." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 July 2016.