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GENIUS HOME - Reader's Creative Thinking Questions : Held breath diving...

Underwater swimming - intelligence gains or better mental clarity?

Well, CAN holding your breath underwater make you smarter?

CAN holding your breath underwater make you smarter?

Kasper, a reader of this website, writes to ask about underwater swimming and it's affect on the brain. Here is his question:

hi Wily,
i have a question on held breath diving. have you done it? if yes did you notice any gains in intelligence or mental clarity?
it sounds very interesting and i wanna say that i really enjoy your website
thanks,
      kasper

Here is my reply:

Hello Kasper,
 
Thank you very much for your email, your question, and for your kind comment.
 
Yes, I have practiced 'held breath diving', several years ago now when I had regular access to a swimming pool.
 
Nowadays, I only get to a pool about two weeks out of the year when we take family vacations!
 
From the subjective perspective, yes, it does increase mental clarity. Partly that is down to the reduction in stimuli. You don't hear anything much under water, which focuses your attention much more on your thoughts. You can achieve a similar effect just by plugging your ears and closing the curtains! ;-)

Gains in intelligence are really only verifiable with IQ style testing and brain scans. I haven't personally been involved in any of that. But Win Wenger has and his research shows definite improvements in IQ with consistent practice.
 
Wenger's initial interest in this developed while still a student. He was behind in his grades and had to attend summer school to try and catch up. Every afternoon he would spend several hours in the swimming pool, keeping cool. He found that he enjoyed swimming under water most of all, spending up to (and this is incredible) 4 and half minutes holding his breath. Over the course of the summer, his grades shot up and he went from bottom of the class to the top of the class. That clued him into researching the effects of underwater swimming. (Ref: The Oxygen Factor, Chapter 11, in 'The Einstein Factor' by Win Wenger).
 
The way I look at this kind of practice is like this. You know the difference between when you feel tired and run down, and when you feel energised and alert. There are various factors involved in this -- but the degree of oxygen reaching your brain is a huge factor. That's why if you find yourself feeling sleepy, just going out into the fresh air can wake you up more.
 
By enlarging the carotid artery, enabling more oxygenated blood to reach the deeper and finer reaches of the brain, you keep more of your brain cells alive and functioning for longer periods of time. What this does is extends your intelligence into more parts of the day.
 
Intelligence is not a static thing. It doesn't remain at the same level all the time. Taking IQ as a metaphorical guage of overall intelligence...You may have an IQ of 125, but when you first wake up and stagger to the bathroom in the morning, your IQ is probably effectively about 90-110 at that moment. You know that's true, don't you?! That ug-ug cave man feeling! When you are with someone attractive and fascinating later in the day, your IQ might peak up to 160 at times as you flirt and engage in fun conversation or if you are talking to someone who is engaging your interest in a subject.
 
With most people, I think there is a lot of fluctuation in their intelligence through the day... with lots of dips into the lower reaches!
 
With exercises like underwater swimming, I think that your intelligences stabilizes and extends into more of your day, giving you opportunity to experience more peaks than lows.
 
I hope that makes sense?
 
Warmest Regards,
Wily Walnut

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