Article image

Swimming exercises the brain

We are among the only primates on the planet that can actually tread water. Swimming is a full body activity that exercises all of our major muscle groups – including the brain, according to a new study.

The research, conducted by scientists at the University of Delaware, looked at students from the ages of 6 to 12. The experts set out to investigate the connection between exercise and the retention of vocabulary words. 

The students were taught new vocabulary words and were then separated into three groups; one for swimming (an aerobic activity), one to take part in a Crossfit-like routine (an anaerobic activity), and the other to participate in a coloring sheet (a control group). 

Lead researcher Maddy Pruit explained that motor movement helps the brain encode new words. While this benefit has been noted in adults, the current study is the first of its kind to examine the effect of exercise on learning ability among children.

As it turns out, the swimmers retained 13 percent more of their vocabulary words compared to their peers in the other two groups. Pruitt attributes this to the automatic, full-body nature of swimming. The other exercise group had to learn the movements of their routine, yet swimming comes much more naturally to us. 

“We were so excited about this study because it applies to clinicians, caregivers and educators who can put it into practice. It’s simple stuff, nothing out of the ordinary. But it could really help boost the outcomes,” said study co-author Giovanni Morini.

Pruitt herself has taken these lessons to heart. Having earned her masters degree in 2020, she now works as a speech pathologist for elementary students. 2020. 

“My sessions are very rarely at a table,” she said. “I’ll take my kids out to the playground or we’ll take a walk around the school.” 

The study is published in the Journal of Speech Language and Hearing Research.

By Alex Ruger, Staff Writer

News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day