Now taking enquires for JULY SHIP - School Holiday Intensive Program! Starts 8 July. Contact us today!

Category: Kids Squads

Written by Seena Mathew, Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

It’s no secret that aerobic exercise can help stave off some of the ravages of aging. But a growing body of research suggests that swimming might provide a unique boost to brain health.

Regular swimming has been shown to improve memory, cognitive function, immune response and mood. Swimming may also help repair damage from stress and forge new neural connections in the brain.

But scientists are still trying to unravel how and why swimming, in particular, produces these brain-enhancing effects.

As a neurobiologist trained in brain physiology, a fitness enthusiast and a mom, I spend hours at the local pool during the summer. It’s not unusual to see children gleefully splashing and swimming while their parents sunbathe at a distance – and I’ve been one of those parents observing from the poolside plenty of times. But if more adults recognized the cognitive and mental health benefits of swimming, they might be more inclined to jump in the pool alongside their kids.

New and improved brain cells and connections

Until the 1960s, scientists believed that the number of neurons and synaptic connections in the human brain were finite and that, once damaged, these brain cells could not be replaced. But that idea was debunked as researchers began to see ample evidence for the birth of neurons, or neurogenesis, in adult brains of humans and other animals.

Now, there is clear evidence that aerobic exercise can contribute to neurogenesis and play a key role in helping to reverse or repair damage to neurons and their connections in both mammals and fish.

Research shows that one of the key ways these changes occur in response to exercise is through increased levels of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor. The neural plasticity, or ability of the brain to change, that this protein stimulates has been shown to boost cognitive function, including learning and memory.

Studies in people have found a strong relationship between concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor circulating in the brain and an increase in the size of the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning and memory. Increased levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor have also been shown to sharpen cognitive performance and to help reduce anxiety and depression. In contrast, researchers have observed mood disorders in patients with lower concentrations of brain-derived neurotrophic factor.

Aerobic exercise also promotes the release of specific chemical messengers called neurotransmitters. One of these is serotonin, which – when present at increased levels – is known to reduce depression and anxiety and improve mood.

In studies in fish, scientists have observed changes in genes responsible for increasing brain-derived neurotrophic factor levels as well as enhanced development of the dendritic spines – protrusions on the dendrites, or elongated portions of nerve cells – after eight weeks of exercise compared with controls. This complements studies in mammals where brain-derived neurotrophic factor is known to increase neuronal spine density. These changes have been shown to contribute to improved memory, mood and enhanced cognition in mammals. The greater spine density helps neurons build new connections and send more signals to other nerve cells. With the repetition of signals, connections can become stronger.

But what’s special about swimming?

Researchers don’t yet know what swimming’s secret sauce might be. But they’re getting closer to understanding it.

Swimming has long been recognized for its cardiovascular benefits. Because swimming involves all of the major muscle groups, the heart has to work hard, which increases blood flow throughout the body. This leads to the creation of new blood vessels, a process called angiogenesis. The greater blood flow can also lead to a large release of endorphins – hormones that act as a natural pain reducer throughout the body. This surge brings about the sense of euphoria that often follows exercise.

Most of the research to understand how swimming affects the brain has been done in rats. Rats are a good lab model because of their genetic and anatomic similarity to humans.

In one study in rats, swimming was shown to stimulate brain pathways that suppress inflammation in the hippocampus and inhibit apoptosis, or cell death. The study also showed that swimming can help support neuron survival and reduce the cognitive impacts of aging. Although researchers do not yet have a way to visualize apoptosis and neuronal survival in people, they do observe similar cognitive outcomes.

One of the more enticing questions is how, specifically, swimming enhances short- and long-term memory. To pinpoint how long the beneficial effects may last, researchers trained rats to swim for 60 minutes daily for five days per week. The team then tested the rats’ memory by having them swim through a radial arm water maze containing six arms, including one with a hidden platform.

Rats got six attempts to swim freely and find the hidden platform. After just seven days of swim training, researchers saw improvements in both short- and long-term memories, based on a reduction in the errors rats made each day. The researchers suggested that this boost in cognitive function could provide a basis for using swimming as a way to repair learning and memory damage caused by neuropsychiatric diseases in humans.

Although the leap from studies in rats to humans is substantial, research in people is producing similar results that suggest a clear cognitive benefit from swimming across all ages. For instance, in one study looking at the impact of swimming on mental acuity in the elderly, researchers concluded that swimmers had improved mental speed and attention compared with nonswimmers. However, this study is limited in its research design, since participants were not randomized and thus those who were swimmers prior to the study may have had an unfair edge.

Another study compared cognition between land-based athletes and swimmers in the young adult age range. While water immersion itself did not make a difference, the researchers found that 20 minutes of moderate-intensity breaststroke swimming improved cognitive function in both groups.

Kids get a boost from swimming too

The brain-enhancing benefits from swimming appear to also boost learning in children.

Another research group recently looked at the link between physical activity and how children learn new vocabulary words. Researchers taught children age 6-12 the names of unfamiliar objects. Then they tested their accuracy at recognizing those words after doing three activities: coloring (resting activity), swimming (aerobic activity) and a CrossFit-like exercise (anaerobic activity) for three minutes.

They found that children’s accuracy was much higher for words learned following swimming compared with coloring and CrossFit, which resulted in the same level of recall. This shows a clear cognitive benefit from swimming versus anaerobic exercise, though the study does not compare swimming with other aerobic exercises. These findings imply that swimming for even short periods of time is highly beneficial to young, developing brains.

The details of the time or laps required, the style of swim and what cognitive adaptations and pathways are activated by swimming are still being worked out. But neuroscientists are getting much closer to putting all the clues together.

For centuries, people have been in search of a fountain of youth. Swimming just might be the closest we can get.

Credits – Written by Seena Mathew, Assistant Professor of Biology, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. Published by The Conversation, a world-leading publisher of research-based news and analysis

As parents, we all know how pervasive screens are in our child’s world. Keeping little ones off screens of all shapes and sizes is almost a full-time job. Studies show that contrary to their name, smartphones can make us less smart, less social, and more forgetful, as well as tired and depressed. On top of this awful wrap, they’re also causing our kids to jump from task to task, negatively affecting memory and concentration. Now with the new screen time recommendations outlined below, there’s even more motivation to find alternative activities for your kids.

Screen Time Stats

Based on The Australian National Physical Activity and Sedentary Guidelines, their 2019 recommendations:

  • For kids under 2 years of age, the standard is zero screen time; that’s right – none – zilch. This includes exposure to all types of media, like TV, electronic devices, DVDs, computers and video gaming.
  • For kids 2-5 years of age, the standard is less than 1 hour of screen time per day. Same as above – that means only 60 minutes of exposure to all media types.
  • For kids 5-17 years of age, the standard is less than 2 hours of screen time per day. Again, the same parameters as above apply.

Do As I Do

When you take away excess screen time, you’ll find an activity hole you need to help fill. Why not help your kids develop a love for swimming and being in the water which they can carry with them throughout their lives. The ultimate goal is to foster kids who are confident in the water. When you raise kids to love swimming, they’ll naturally choose to spend time in the water over spending time in front of a screen.

The Water Works

There are many things swimming can do that devices don’t. For one thing, swimming lessons encourage kids to listen to instructions actively and concentrate on one thing at a time. In this watery learning environment, you often need to work with others, as well as work together to achieve goals. And speaking of goals, swimming can help kids and teens learn to set them effectively; weekly practise motivates swimmers to reach their ambitions in the water. Learning to swim is all about self-motivation. Kids get to know their strengths, and these then extend to life out of the water.

Socially Speaking

Swimming is a sport that boosts confidence, and the earlier kids learn, the more confidence is fostered. Learning swimming skills is excellent for self-assurance because it encourages independence. Little swimmers also gain robust visual-motor skills, which resonate with their out-of-water adeptness like cutting and colouring-in. Being on devices can be detrimental for your child’s confidence; the constant comparisons and exposure to other people’s ‘highlights reel’ can crush self-assurance. When kids have solid swimming foundations, it opens up more social situations, to hang out at the beach or pool with friends and family; less reasons to hide behind a screen.

Mental Health

Whereas screens can aggravate stress and anxiety, swimming can reduce both. Due to its repetitive nature, swimming can put little ones on autopilot, helping them let go of their worries and hush their thoughts. It also encourages the release of endorphins, which generates a feeling of calm, as does the sensation of weightlessness. And by tiring your kids and teens out by swimming – they’ll sleep better.

Turning off the tablet in favour of taking tumble turns in the water is infinitely more beneficial in both the short and long-term. Take the plunge and book your next lesson with us today! Get in touch.

Swimming more than once a week has shown great improvements in our student’s swimming capabilities.

We have found that an increase in attendance has shown several measurable benefits. These benefits can help with your child’s swimming progression and overall confidence on their journey to “learning to swim well”. And to help you fund extra lessons, click here to have a look at the discounts we offer.

See below to find out what some of these benefits are and how they can help with your child’s swimming progression.

1. Helps fast-track your child’s progression

From our experience, we have seen a massive difference between our students who swim more than once a week. This will allow your child to perfect the same skill over and over again. Repetition is key to succeeding as a strong swimmer!

2. Helps build familiarity in the pool

Coming to the pool more often allows your child to become more familiar with their surroundings. Having this familiarity will enable them to feel comfortable, and as a result, they will feel safe in our pools. This feeling of comfort will help them learn new skills easily and will help the overall, smooth running of the class.

3. Helps prepare for upcoming events

Most of our students participate in school carnivals and other curricular activities held in the Spring and Summer period. Swimming more than once a week will help prepare them for these events. It will make them feel confident and excited to participate.

4. Helps nourish student-teacher bonding

Coming in for more lessons during the week helps build a strong bond between students and their Instructors. A big part of learning how to swim effectively lies in how comfortable children are with their Instructors. By building a stronger bond with their Instructors, children will not only trust the process and progress quicker, but they will also love coming to class.

5. Helps children stay active and healthy

Swimming more often during the week will help keep your child off their iPads and in the pool, keeping them active. Swimming frequently has been shown to help build endurance, strength, and can help your child maintain a healthy weight, a healthy heart and healthy lungs.

6. Helps maximise their understanding of safety

With all of our classes, we reinforce the importance of swim safety through our teaching. Having your child take lessons more regularly means they will gain a greater and quicker understanding of safety, and practicing these skills will ensure your child is safe in the water at all times.

7. Helps with social interaction

More lessons during a week help children feel comfortable and familiar being in group settings. Interacting with other children in the same level frequently, will give your child that boost of confidence in the water and will make coming to class a lot more enjoyable.

So, don’t miss out on these great benefits and on this great discount! Get in touch to book more lessons.