It’s summertime and the weather is hot (in the Northern hemisphere at least), which means you’re probably itching to cool off in some water. In addition to saving you from the summer heat, it turns out that swimming actually has cognitive benefits as well. Let’s dive deeper into its brain boosting powers.
Researchers know that aerobic exercise facilitates neurogenesis or the creation of new neural connections, but now they’re curious about the degrees of brain benefits reaped from different types of aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise increases the brain-derived neurotrophic factor protein, improving brain plasticity and cognitive function, but swimming, in particular, appears to offer a heightened degree of these benefits.
In studies with rats, swimming was shown to suppress inflammation in the hippocampus and inhibit cell death. The same study found that swimming vastly improved rats’ memory.
Looking at human studies, one research project found that elderly individuals who swam regularly had improved memory and cognitive function compared to those who did not.
Even children experience these water-based benefits. One study looked at how children successfully learned new vocabulary words after three different activities: coloring, swimming, and Crossfit. They found that vocabulary retention was much higher after swimming than the other exercises.
Although we still do not know why swimming is so beneficial for the brain, we do know that getting in the water and moving our bodies appears to be a great way to boost brain health, improve memory, and protect cognitive function. So if you’re looking for a new workout that’s good for your mind and body, consider heading to a local pool or lake for double the brain benefits.