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The Secret Benefits of Swimming on the Brain

Updated: Dec 7, 2019

Everyone knows that swimming is one of the best sports for your body. With low impact on joints and benefits on cardiovascular health, swimming is the go-to sport for all ages. Not to mention that swimming is a life-saving sport!

But did you know that swimming can not only help your body, but also your brain?

According to counseling and mental health therapist Moby Coquillard, swimming can be more effective at reducing the effects of depression than medication. That's because swimming, like most rigorous physical activity, produces endorphins, naturally-occurring chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain.

Swimming engages the body in an all-around stretch, muscle contraction, and skeletal relaxation. Combined with repetitive, deep-breathing patterns, swimming guides the body into a soothing state, similar to that experienced in yoga.

Coquillard, an avid swimmer himself, recommends focusing on specific areas of the body to reach a meditative state while swimming. "By concentrating on different aspects of their stroke mechanics, from hip rotation and kick patterns, to streamlining and pulls, regular swimmers practice this intuitively". Read more of Coquillard's interview here.

Believe it or not, swimming benefits go even one step further. Research suggests that swimming can lead to neurogenesis, that is, the re-growth of brain cells!

Research from top universities in Korea tested out this concept on adult rats. The researchers had the rats participate in rigorous 5-day/week swim training exercises for 8 full weeks. Compared to control groups (rats which did not exercise at all), the swimming rats had an increased level of neuron-generating proteins in their brains. This research was replicated at the University of Michigan Medical School and a top university in Finland. Although the study did not use human subjects, the potential health implications are enormous.

Finally, swimming can also help reduce inflammation throughout the body and boost blood flow to the brain. What are the benefits of increased blood flow to the brain? Better memory, improved mood, better clarity and focus.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start swimming!

Note. This post was inspired by a graphic created by Dr. Bruce Lawrie. See the graphic below or check out the original LinkedIn post here.

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