Developing tongue strength by weightlifting?

THE greatest joy in research comes from the exotic novelty in some studies. Have you ever thought of increasing your tongue strength by weightlifting? Well, I am not suggesting that the tongue does the weightlifting. I am simply stating that, according to a study, weightlifting is capable of strengthening the tongue muscles. The researchers from three universities in the United States are Heidi Van Ravenhorst-Bell and Jeremy Patterson from Wichita State University, Kansas; Kathy Coufal from the University of Nebraska, Omaha; and Antje Mefferd from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

The theory they were working on stated that resistance training (weightlifting) and endurance training (running) may increase the strength and endurance of targeted muscles (i.e. arm muscles and leg muscles, respectively) and non-targeted muscles, such as tongue muscles.

Well, there goes the foundation of the study. The researchers used the Iowa Oral Performance Instrument to measure tongue strength and tongue endurance. They reported their findings in the November 2018 issue of the Physiological Reports.

Is their theory correct?

Well, they found out that, in the 21 weightlifters participating in the study, the anterior (upper) side of the tongue became significantly stronger than the posterior (lower) side and the anterior side of the runners’ tongues. Meanwhile, either side of the runners’ tongues has significantly higher tongue endurance than those of the weightlifters’. So what’s the implication of this study?

Well, the researchers noted that tongue strength and tongue endurance play important parts in our daily tasks, such as swallowing and unconscious breathing. As a person ages, the functionality of the tongue muscles also decline, making it more difficult to swallow food (dysphagia) or to breath while asleep (sleep apnea).

Thus, people who exercise their muscles for strength and endurance may be able to slow down the deterioration of their tongue functions. That is something to laugh and be happy about.


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