Swimming gives a “boost to brain health” more effectively than other aerobic activities, says neuroscientist Seena Mathew in The Conversation. It enhances cognitive functions such as learning and memory by increasing levels of a protein called “brain-derived neurotrophic factor”, which repairs damaged neurons and neural connections. Just 20 minutes of moderate breaststroke a day has been found to improve cognitive function in young adults. And they’re not the only ones to benefit.
A study of children aged 6-12 found that their short-term memory improved more after three minutes of swimming than after colouring or anaerobic exercise such as a CrossFit workout. It seems “swimming for even short periods of time is highly beneficial to young, developing brains”. Another study found that elderly swimmers had better mental speed and attention than their non-swimming peers. Humans have been in search of the “fountain of youth” for centuries: swimming might be “the closest we can get”.