THE COGNITIVE BENEFITS OF BABY SWIMMING LESSONS
The benefits of introducing your child to swimming lessons whilst still a baby are many, and include improved physical development as well as social development – not to mention fun!
The benefit that is overlooked most often (most likely because it is still widely unknown) is that of cognition. The cognitive benefits are the ‘mental’ benefits, and studies have been emerging to show that these are vast, as well as incredibly important for the development of children as a whole.
Studies have shown that physical activity improves the cognitive abilities of people of all ages, and swimming is one area where we can start very young. When children are in the womb they are swimming for nine months, so popping babies in the pool for swimming lessons is just continuing to develop that natural affinity.
Starting in 2009, Griffith University embarked on a large, four year long Early Years Swimming Research Project with 45 swim schools in Australia, New Zealand and the United States. It was the largest study of its kind, and the preliminary results showed that children under the age of five involved in swimming lessons are more advanced in both their cognitive and physical development than their non-swimming peers.
In 2011, researchers in Melbourne reported intellectual and physical benefits from early swimming lessons, with a scientist determining that children who were taught to swim by five years of age had statistically higher IQs. The research also showed significant physical benefits such as that moving in high water resistance strengthened the children’s muscles more rapidly than playing on the floor, because swimming activates more large muscle groups.
Recent studies have also shown the amount of a person’s movement and exercise affects the size and memory capacity of their ‘hippocampus’. This is the area of the brain primarily associated with memory and learning, showing that through active early movement a child’s brain develops. Swimming is one of the key movement activities that can assist in stimulating brain development, and the bonus is that you can start you baby early – even as young as two months!
It is true that the most important thing that children learn through swimming lessons is to be safe around water, but the benefits for their development in terms of learning are also huge.