Swimming To Success: The Beneficial Effects Of Swimming On A Child’s Brain

Swimming is a superior form of exercise, especially for children. Not only will they learn a valuable skill that will give them high levels of fitness, but children who swim consistently also enjoy several emotional and mental side effects that will give them a leg up when they face the challenges of life.

Swimming And The Brain

During infancy and youth, the brain has millions of undeveloped connections. As children learn new skills and repeatedly do new things, pathways of thought are forged in the brain to make doing those things easier. Swimming is great for the brain because it involves so many different neural pathways at the same time. As your child swims, the brain becomes stronger because:

  1. Children move their arms and legs at the same time, as well as concentrate on different breathing patterns. It takes intense focus for the brain to work more parts of concentration at the same time. Learning and executing different strokes forms more connections across the corpus callosum. This part of the brain is the "communication highway" between the left and right sides, allowing the body to effectively use both brain hemispheres at once. 
  2. Children develop a larger hippocampus. The hippocampus area of the brain deals with learning and memory. As your child swims, the brain adapts to the high stress environment by remembering new techniques. Because swimming is a technical sport, and children must make minor adaptations to their strokes in order to become more efficient, this part of the brain is actively involved every time a muscles is moved. 
  3. The pleasure and reward center is healthily activated. Regular exercise releases a hormone called dopamine, which produces those good feelings that people have after a workout. As children experience this, the brain recognizes swimming as a beneficial activity. They will be more likely to continue swimming into adulthood. 

The Effects Of A Swimmer's Brain Development

So, if all of these things are happening in the brain, how does that affect other areas of a child's life? Well, there are some amazing things that happen when the brain is regularly exposed to a an environment that stimulates all five senses; swimming involves touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing. You will find that your child:

  • Has a better self esteem. Swim training involves setting and reaching regular goals. This builds confidence as new strokes are perfected and new distances are reached. Your child will be more likely to feel empowered in other areas of achievement, including school work.
  • Is better at problem solving. A strong corpus callosum allows the two sides of the brain to regularly interact with one another. Many children who swim find solving social and academic problems much easier for them than their peers. Other exercises for the brain that develop this ability include martial arts and music.
  • Develops good speech and language. A larger hippocampus results in a larger capacity to remember and process new information. Combined with the strength of the corpus callosum, children who swim may have an easier time mastering language, and become better at reading and writing and expressing themselves through speech. In fact, toddlers who swim learn the connection between language and action much faster. 
  • Manages stress more easily. Swimming develops a powerful cardiovascular system. As the muscles and lungs grow in capacity, more oxygen is sent to the brain, which can significantly reduce stress signals in the body. Also, increased oxygenation will give your child more energy, as well as a leg up in school-- increased availability of oxygen increases concentration and learning capabilities. 

There are many reasons for you to expose your child to swimming from infancy. As they grow in this skill, they will grow in intelligence and confidence as well. Enroll your child in swimming lessons in order to reap these fabulous developmental benefits. Follow the link if you would like to learn more about the benefits of swimming lessons.