BACKGROUND: Physical activity has been shown to benefit cognitive function and academic performance in adolescents. More frequent physical activity is associated with improved cognition, yet few studies have evaluated the impact of swimming frequency. This study will evaluate whether swimming 5 days per week versus 3 days per week improves cognition in adolescent swimmers. Research has shown that physical activity has a positive influence on brain structure, function, and cognition in adolescents. Higher-fit adolescent have larger hippocampal volumes and perform better on relational memory tasks compared to lower-fit youth. Aerobic exercise interventions have been shown to improve executive function, processing speed, attention, and academic performance in adolescents. The cognitive benefits of physical activity may be driven by exercise-induced neurotrophic factor production, angiogenesis, and neurogenesis in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. Despite evidence for physical activity enhancing cognition, few studies have specifically evaluated swimming frequency. Swimming is a unique form of physical activity that could confer additional cognitive benefits compared to land-based activities. This study will address a gap in the literature by investigating swimming frequency and cognition in adolescents. METHODS: 50 male and female swimmers aged 12-18 will be recruited for this study. Participants will be randomized to swim practice 3 days per week or 5 days per week for 8 weeks. A 10-item cognitive test evaluating processing speed, attention, memory, and reasoning will be administered to all participants before and after the 8-week intervention. The cognitive assessment will include tasks such as Symbol Search, Digit Span, Letter-Number Sequencing, Matrix Reasoning, and Trail Making from the NIH Toolbox Cognition Battery. Two-way repeated measures ANOVA will be used to assess changes in cognition between groups across time. ANTICIPATED RESULTS: Based on previous research showing greater cognitive benefits with increased physical activity frequency, we hypothesize that adolescents swimming 5 days per week will show greater improvements in cognition compared to those swimming 3 days per week. We expect significant group x time interactions, with greater pre-to-post intervention increases in processing speed, attention, memory, and reasoning scores in the 5 days per week group. Confirming this dose-response relationship between swimming frequency and enhanced cognition, and demonstrating that frequent swimming improves cognition more than moderate swimming, would provide evidence to recommend higher training volumes for cognitive benefits in developing adolescents. This could inform physical activity recommendations for adolescents and encourage increased participation in swimming programs.

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