Swimming is the perfect summer activity for your brain
Is your summer synonymous with hitting the pool? Your brain approves.
It’s a no-brainer that swimming is great for your physical health, as any vigorous physical activity is. But it also has a tremendous impact on your brain, affecting key areas like your memory, learning, motor skills, reflex movements, and moods. Swimming helps strengthen your cognitive functions, as well as preserving and alleviating your mental health.
If you need any more reasons to splash up some blue this summer, here are five.
5 reasons swimming is great for your brain
Improves blood flow to the brain
Any repetitive physical activity like jogging, running, dancing, cycling etc contributes to better blood flow to the brain, and swimming is no different. But a recent study also found that immersion in water provides an added boost of blood flow to your brain, and swimming can give you that. Full or up to heart level immersion in water has been found to increase blood flow to your middle cerebral arteries by 14%.
Increased blood flow to the brain means a boost in oxygen flow, and a much improved memory, focus, clarity, and mood. This is why you always feel fresh and sharp even and especially after a long swim – it acts as an instant energy boost to your brain.
Promotes new neuron growth
Regular swimming can halt and even reverse brain damage by promoting new neuron growth in the hippocampus through a process called Hippocampal neurogenesis. The hippocampus regulates many of our key cognitive functions, including learning, memory, reasoning etc. But it can shrink if you are stressed or depressed, and that shrinkage affects all these areas.
Swimming has been linked with an almost dramatic increase in new neuron formation in the brain’s hippocampus region, which can restore the hippocampus to its previous state in depressed individuals, and even improve its functions. Recent studies have concluded that a regular swimming regime can reverse brain damage caused by stress and depressive disorders.
Improves coordination between the right and left brain for better learning
The bilateral cross-pattern movements in swimming help strengthen and grow nerve fibers in the brain, particularly in the corpus callosum, the area that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Swimming is an activity that effectively engage almost all the regions of your brain – both hemispheres and all the four brain lobes are activated by it. This improves the connection and coordination between all the key areas of your brain, leading to overall improvement in cognitive functions and visual-spatial-motor skills. As a result, you learn anything better and faster.
Relieves stress by releasing key brain chemicals
Swimming has been linked with an increased secretion of serotonin and endorphin, both huge mood-boosting brain chemicals that helps significantly with symptoms of Anxiety and Depression. Endorphin helps combat stress by producing a natural “high”, and helps bring down feelings of pain. Serotonin, on the other hand, is a mood stabilizer that calms down over-agitated nerve cells and promotes sleep, memory, and social bonding. Both of these brain chemicals are significant in combating the effects of stress, depression, and anxiety on your brain, leading to better mental health.
Acts as a natural meditation facilitator
Water-based activities, and particularly immersion in water, is a great way to enter a meditative state of mind. Water shuts out external stimuli like bright light and sound, helping you move away from common stressors. The coolness of the water, repetitive movements, and the need to focus on your breath pushes you to enter a focused and meditative state of mind, which is a great exercise for stress management. Normally, you have to induce a state of meditation by making changes in your environment and forcing your mind to be still. When you are swimming, the water does half the work for you.
Swimming is one of the most enjoyable activities that you can partake in a hot summer day, but the amazing benefits it has for your brain makes it an even more attractive choice. So if you are a water baby already, keep hitting the pool. If you are not, why not give it a try this summer? We promise you won’t regret it, and neither will your brain!