Swimming To Optimize Your Brain Function And Health

Swimming To Optimize Your Brain Function And Health

For who? Competitive athletes, Baby Boomers, swimmers
For what? Strength, stamina, functional movement, cognitive function

Ryan Glatt, MS, CPT, NBHWC is a psychometrist and a Brain Health Coach at the Brain Health Center in the Pacific Neuroscience Institute in Santa Monica, California.

The Pacific Neuroscience Institute focuses on care of patients with a spectrum of neurological and cranial disorders including brain tumors, skull base tumors, pituitary tumors, spine health, stroke and related neurovascular diseases, adult hydrocephalus, vision and hearing disorders, facial pain and paralysis syndromes, movement disorders as well as sinonasal tumors and related disorders. Additionally the brain health team cares for a wide spectrum of behavioral and cognitive disorder as well as autoimmune and neuroinflammatory disease such as Multiple Sclerosis.

Glatt talks about three types of exercise that optimize brain’s function and health, and how to incorporate them into your day-to-day lifestyle in a Genius Life podcast with Max Lugavere, a television personality, health and wellness writer, science journalist, and New York Times best-selling author of Genius Foods.

Types of Exercises

  • aerobic exercise
  • resistance training
  • skill-based training (or skillful exercise and neuromotive training)

Swimming is multi-modal. Swimming concurrently enables three types of exercise. Doing all four strokes in a pool in a standard (and innovative*) interval training workout comprises of aerobic exercise, resistance training, and skill-based training.

Aerobic Exercise
Swimming all four strokes in a pool in a standard interval training workout leads to increased heart rate and respiration rate.

Resistance Exercise
While most people do not think of swimming as resistance exercise, it clearly is. The arm movement while doing butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle involves not only pulling (in the front half of the arm strokes in all four swimming styles), but also pushing (in the last half of the arm strokes in all four swimming styles) for the upper body and core muscles.

The long-axis swimming strokes (i.e., backstroke and freestyle) and the short-axis swimming strokes (i.e., butterfly and breaststroke) work on different muscles in different ways. But, in general, the first part of the swimming strokes is a pulling action that primarily works the backs and biceps. The second part of the swimming strokes is a pushing action that primarily works the chest, shoulders and triceps.

By utilizing hand paddles, parachutes, fins, snorkels, and KAATSU Aqua Bands, the outcomes and results in the resistance realm become even greater.

Similarly, the leg and core muscles are worked differently in the long-axis and short-axis strokes. The legs either move up and down against the resistance of the water (in butterfly, backstroke, freestyle) or up and back (in breaststroke).

The quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and abdominals are used concurrently while the upper body is used. The lower body gets a focused, intense bout of exercise before and during turns at the walls of a swimming pool.

Skill-based Training
Thinking about how to swim in a more balanced and streamlined manner is a cognitive exercise as is maintaining different paces at different intervals also requires thought.

Additionally, focusing on faster turns (with increased underwater propulsion) and transitioning between butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke and freestyle at fixed intervals, or progressing faster intervals, or in negative split swims also requires thought.

For the ultimate in cognitive effort, doing intervals based on prime numbers is challenging. That is, instead of doing 10×100@1:30, swimmers can do 7×100@1:27.

By adding KAATSU Aqua to a swimming workout, the ability to achieve Glatt’s advice becomes more effective and efficient.