Your water workout gives your body and heart all the benefit of an aerobic workout without impact on the joints. But another amazing perk of swimming is that it’s great for your brain!
President of SWIMkids USA Lana Whitehead holds degrees in exercise physiology, special education and she’s a member of the American College of Sports Medicine. She says a great deal of research has been done with babies finding numerous scientific benefits that swimming has on the brain and that those findings also translate to adults.
So, let’s dive in!
Benefits brain efficiency
The process of lap swimming involves bilateral cross patterning movements which aid in overall efficiency with the brain processes. The more bilateral cross patterning movements, the more nerve fibers develop in the corpus callosum which is a tract of 250 million nerve fibers that connect the right and left hemispheres of the brain and facilitate the communication, feedback and modulation from one side of the brain to the other. Cross lateral movements like swimming activate both cerebral hemispheres and all four lobes of the brain simultaneously, which can result in heightened cognition and increased ease of learning.
It’s a great idea to get kids into swim lessons early. Scientific studies of young swimmers at the German Sports College, Cologne showed early swim lessons encourage a child’s mental development. As compared with a control group, the children who swam consistently from age three months, scored higher for intelligence and problem-solving and this carried over into excellence in academic achievement when tested at 2, 3 and 4 years. This was supported when 2009, Griffith University did a 4-year research project with 45 swim schools across the world. The results showed children, under the age of 5, involved in swim programs were more advanced in their cognitive development than their non-swimming peers.
Beneficial to memory
Art Kramer and his colleagues at the University of Illinois and the University of Pittsburgh discovered that vigorous exercise like swimming affects the size and memory capacity of the hippocampus which is a memory area of the brain located in the medial temporal lobes. They concluded that more tissue in the hippocampus equates with increased ability in certain types of memory. Other research suggests that exercise promotes so-called “hippocampal neurogenesis” – the growth of new brain cells in a part of the brain that atrophies under chronic stress.
Better for neural pathways:
There’s a reason why swimming’s used by athletes recovering from an injury. They may not be able to do weightlifting but the swimmer experiences a great deal of tactile force from the water resistance over the body which has over 600 – 700 times the resistance of air. In babies, this tactile stimulation encourages neurological development. The more tactile stimulation of the nerves the swimmer experiences, the more interconnections and neural pathways can develop in the brain.
SWIMkids USA is an acclaimed and family-owned swim school in Mesa that Lana Whitehead opened more than almost 50 years ago. www.swimkidsaz.com