SWIMMING in their early years can propel children to the top of the class, new research shows!

While the physical benefits of the sport have long been recognised, a four-year study reveals it also leads to academic success. The research, conducted by the Griffith Institute for Educational Research, Laurie Lawrence’s Kids Alive Swim Program and Swim Australia focused on 7000 children aged five and under from Australia, New Zealand and the US. It found youngsters that swam had a significant advantage over non-swimming students in a range of subjects.
Griffith University researcher Professor Robyn Jorgensen said many results had surpassed expectations. “While we expected the children to show better physical development and perhaps be more confident through swimming, the results in literacy and numeracy really shocked us,” Professor Jorgensen said.
“They were anywhere from six to 15 months ahead of the normal population when it came to cognitive skills, problem solving in mathematics, counting, language and following instructions.”

On average, swimming children were 11 months ahead of the population in oral expression, six months ahead in mathematics reasoning and two months ahead in brief reading. They were more proficient in story recall (17 months ahead) and understanding directions (20 months ahead). Professor Jorgensen said the findings had implications for education, particularly for children from low socio-economic situations. She said there would be enormous value in governments funding early years swimming as part of their economic and education programs in these communities. The Australian component included observing more than 120 swimming lessons in 40 swim schools in Queensland, South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales.

Caloundra Swim School’s Gary Taylor said his school, through its association with Swim Australia, had helped survey parents and collect data. Mr Taylor, an experienced instructor, said he believed the brain-boosting benefits of swimming came from “multi-tasking”. He said both sides of the brain were stimulated as children worked on co-ordinating all parts of their body. “They have a lot to think about, including counting when they should breathe. I think the multi-tasking under pressure helps their development greatly. “Kids also learn how to listen and take instruction, which helps them become better students later on.”
The research findings, which will be shared with Federal and State governments, will be officially released at Griffith University’s Mt Gravatt Aquatic and Fitness Centre today.