Latest scientific research studies that show the benefit of swimming lessons

by Lana Whitehead  SWIMkids USA

  • A case-controlled study conducted by Ruth Brenner and her colleagues discovered that participation in formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drownung by 88% among children aged one to four years. The authors concluded that swimming lessons “should be considered for inclusion as part of a complete prevention program.” In a case-controlled study in rural China, Dr. L. Yang and his associates reported a 40% reduction in drowning risk in open bodies of water for children participating in formal swimming lessons.”[2]
  • In a case-controlled study in rural China,Dr. L. Yang and associates reported a 40% reduction in drowning risk in open bodies of water  for children participating in in formal swimming lessons.[18]
  • Scientific studies at the German Sports College Cologne have shown that early year round swimming lessons for young children accelerated their development physically, intellectually and emotionally.
  • As compared with a control group which did not take year-round lessons, the children who swam consistently from infancy were significantly stronger and and more coordinated.
  • The children scored higher for intelligence and problem solving, which carried over into excellence in academic achievement.
  • Emotionally, they were found to have more self-discipline, greater self-control and an increased desire to succeed.
  • They rated higher in self-esteem and were more independent and comfortable in social situations than the control groups.[8]
  • Studies conducted at Norwegian University of Science and Technology with Dr. Hermundur Sigmundsson and his colleagues found baby swimmers developed better balance, movement and grasping techniques than non-swimmers. This difference persisted even when the children were five years old; the baby swimmers still outperformed their peers in these skills.[15]
  • Zelazo and Weiss reported that baby swimmers made “considerable gains in movement required for for turning 180 degrees and reaching for a wall (underwater) for the 16 to 20 month old children.” The researchers concluded buoyancy most likely boosted the infant’s motor development.[19]
  • Starting in 2009, Griffith University embarked on a large, 4 year Early Years Swimming Research Project with 45 swim schools Australia, New Zealand  and the  United States, the largest study of its kind.
  • The preliminary results show that children under the age of 5 involved in swimming lessons are more advanced in their cognitive and physical development than their non-swimming peers.
  • The results show minor benifits to social and language development.[11]
  • In 20011, researchers in Melbourne reported intellectual and physical benefits form early swim lessons.
  • The scientist determined children who were taught to swim by 5 years of age had statistically higher IQs.
  • The research also showed that moving in high water resistance strenghtened the children’s muscles more rapidly than playing on the floor because swimming activates more large muscle groups.[10]
  • Recent studies have shown the amount of a person’s movement and excercise affects the size and memory capacity of their hippocampus.[12] The hippocampus is an area of the brain primarily associated with memory and learning.
  • Draganski and Gaser observed an increased number of neurons in the hippocampus of humans in a controlled excercise program.[6]
  • Art Kramer and his colleagues at the University of Illinois and the University of Pittsburgh discovered that ” higher fit people have a bigger hippocampus.” They concluded that more tissue in the hippocampus equates with increased ability in certain types of memory.[12]
  • Fascinating new research reports that a baby’s brain develops through bilateral cross patterning movements like swimming, crawaling and walking.
  • The more cross patterning movements, the more nerve fibers develop in the corpus callosum in the brain. The corpus callosum facilitates communication, feedback and modulation from one side of the brain to the other.
  • Cross patterning movements like swimming activate both cerebral hemispheres and all 4 lobes of the brain simultaneously, which can result in heightened cognition and increase ease of learning.
  • Good communication in the cerebral hemispheres leads to overall efficiency in brain processes, while poor interaction slows down language development and academic learning.[4]
  • In a longitudinal study, Dr. Liselott Diem and her colleagues reported that children who had taken part in baby swimming lessons from the age of 2 months to 4 years were better adapted to new situations and had more self confidence and independence than non-swimmers.[5]
  • Swim class has abundant opportunities to share space with other children and to explore movement together.[3] The child cooperates within a social structure to learn by obseving and mimicking.
  • Feeling special, loved and wanted builds self-esteem through a a sense of belonging. “Being part of a group also contributes to the child’s social development.'[14]
  • The child experiences a great deal of tactile stimulation from the water resistance over the entire body while swimming which encourages neurological development.
  • Results of research by Dr. Ruth Rice revealed that infants made “significant gains in neurological development, weight gain and mental development” from the tactile stimulation of the nerve pathways of the skin and vestibular nerve cells.[13]
  • Water has over 600 times the resistance of air. T
  • The resistance of the water stimulates tactile receptors and establishes a deeper emotional bond
  •  Scientific studies by Dr. Tiffany Field have shown that touch therapy promotes wellness of the newborn, improves growth and development and enhances bonding between the parent and infant.[7]
  • The skin is the largest organ in the body. It is the boundry of self and contributes greatly to a sense of awareness.
  • Touch from the parent provides the child with emotional nourishment, a feeling of attachment, commitment and connection.

1. Ayers J. Sensory Intergration and the Child. Los Angeles, CA. : Western Psychological Services;1991: pp.1-67
2. Brenner R.A. Gitanjali S.T., Haynie D.L., Trumble A.C., Qian C., Klinger R.M., Klebanoff M.A., Association Between Swimming Lessons and Drowning in Childhood: A case controlstudy. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 2009; 163(3):203-210
3. Connell G., Todd A., Reference Manuel for Early Childhood in Water. Auckland, New Zealand: Swimming New Zealand; 2007.
4. Dennison P.E. “Massage the Brain-Button and Learn.” Newsmagazine, Online-
5. Diem, Undeutsch, Lehr, Olbrich, “Early Motor Stimulation and Personal Development: a study of four to six year old German Children.” Extract by Editor. Swimming World 21 (12):14, 1980
6. Draganski B., Gaser C., “Changes in Gray Matter Induced by Training.” Nature 427;2004:pp.311-312.
7. Field T., Scafidi F., Scanaberg S., “Message of Preterm Newborns to Improve Growth and Development.” Pediatric Nursing.; 13: 385-387.
8. German Sports College Cologne, “Baby Swimming: Advance Independence and Development of Intelligence.” World Aquuatic Babies and Children Network, online- 1979.
9. Hannaford C. Smart Moves. Arlington, Virgina, Great Ocean Publishers; 1995.
10. Healthmade Magazine, “The Benefits for Swimming Especially for Children-The Function to teach Swimming to Infants.” March 8, 2011.
11. Jorgensen R., Grootenboer P., Funnell B., “Early Years Swimming Research Project at Griffith University.” Splash Magazine; July 19,2011.
12. Kramer A.F., Erickson K.I., Colcumbe S.J., “Excercise, Cognition and the Aging Brain.” Journal of Applied Physiology; 2009; pp. 101, 1243-1251.
13. Rice R., “Neurophysiological Development in Premature Neonate Following Stimulation.” Developmental Psychology, 13; 69-76, 1977.
14. Rosengren L.,Baby Swim: The Beginning of a Life Long Adventure. Uppsala, Sweeden. Uppsala Publishing house; 2004.
15. Sigmundsson H., Hopkins B. “Baby Swimming Exploring the Effects of Early Intervention on Subsequent Motor Abilities.” Child: Care, Health and Development, Science Daily 210, 36 (3): 428 DOL:10.1111/j.1365-2214.2009.00990.x. May 7, 2010.
16. Whitehead, L.E. Move and Learn: The Power of Movement.Raleigh, North Carolina. Lulu Press, 2008.
17. Whitehead L.E. Movement: The Keys to Early Learning. Raleigh, North Carolina. Lulu Press, 2010.
18. Yang L. Nong ll,Li CL,Feng OM, Lo SK “Risk factors for childhood drowning in rual regions of a developing country: a case-control study.” Injury Prevention 2, 13(3): 178-182.
19. Zelazo P.R., Weiss M.J., “Infant SWimming Behaviors: Cognitive Control and Influence of Experience.” Journal of Cognitive Development 7 (1); 2006: pp. 1-25
20. Whitehead L., “Scientific Benefits of a Baby Swim Lessons.” Mesa, Arizona.

Water Safety

When the weather turns warm, everyone wants to be in or around the water. Hanging out at the pool or the beach on a hot day is a great way to beat the heat.

Between having fun and checking out the lifeguards, most people don’t think much about water safety — but they should. For people between the ages of 5 and 24, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Most water-related accidents can be avoided by knowing how to stay safe and following a few simple guidelines. Learning how to swim is essential if you plan on being on or near water. Many organizations provide swim instruction to people of all ages, check to see what classes are available in your area.

Swimming Smarts

“Buddy up!”That’s what swimming instructors say. Always swim with a partner, every time — whether you’re swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake. Even experienced swimmers can become tired or get muscle cramps, which might make it difficult to get out of the water. When people swim together, they can help each other or go for help in case of an emergency.

Get skilled.Speaking of emergencies, it’s good to be prepared. Learning some life-saving skills, such as CPR and rescue techniques, can help you save a life. A number of organizations offer free classes for both beginning and experienced swimmers and boaters. Check with your YMCA or YWCA, local hospital, or chapter of the Red Cross.

Know your limits.Swimming can be a lot of fun — and you might want to stay in the water as long as possible. If you’re not a good swimmer or you’re just learning to swim, don’t go in water that’s so deep you can’t touch the bottom and don’t try to keep up with skilled swimmers. That can be hard, especially when your friends are challenging you — but it’s a pretty sure bet they’d rather have you safe and alive.

If you are a good swimmer and have had lessons, keep an eye on friends who aren’t as comfortable or as skilled as you are. If it seems like they (or you) are getting tired or a little uneasy, suggest that you take a break from swimming for a while.

Swim in safe areas only. It’s a good idea to swim only in places that are supervised by a lifeguard. No one can anticipate changing ocean currents, rip currents, sudden storms, or other hidden dangers. In the event that something does go wrong, lifeguards are trained in rescue techniques.

Swimming in an open body of water (like a river, lake, or ocean) is different from swimming in a pool. You need more energy to handle the currents and other changing conditions in the open water.

If you do find yourself caught in a current, don’t panic and don’t fight the current. Try to swim parallel to the shore until you are able to get out of the current, which is usually a narrow channel of water. Gradually try to make your way back to shore as you do so. If you’re unable to swim away from the current, stay calm and float with the current. The current will usually slow down, then you can swim to shore.

Even a very good swimmer who tries to swim against a strong current will get worn out. If you’re going to be swimming in an open body of water, it’s a great idea to take swimming lessons that provide you with tips on handling unexpected hazards.

Some areas with extremely strong currents are off limits when it comes to swimming. Do your research so you know where not to swim, and pay attention to any warning signs posted in the area.

More Swimming Smarts

Be careful about diving.Diving injuries can cause head injury, permanent spinal cord damage, paralysis, and sometimes even death. Protect yourself by only diving in areas that are known to be safe, such as the deep end of a supervised pool. If an area is posted with “No Diving” or “No Swimming” signs, pay attention to them. A “No Diving” sign means the water isn’t safe for a head-first entry. Even if you plan to jump in feet first, check the water’s depth before you leap to make sure there are no hidden rocks or other hazards. Lakes or rivers can be cloudy and hazards may be hard to see.

Watch the sun.Sun reflecting off the water or off sand can intensify the burning rays. You might not feel sunburned when the water feels cool and refreshing, but the pain will catch up with you later — so remember to reapply sunscreen frequently and cover up much of the time. Don’t forget your hat, UV protection sunglasses, and protective clothing.

Drink plenty of fluids.It’s easy to getdehydratedin the sun, particularly if you’re active and sweating. Keep up with fluids — particularly water — to prevent dehydration. Dizziness, feeling lightheaded, or nausea can be signs of dehydration and overheating.

Getting too cool.Speaking of temperature, it’s possible to get too cool. How? Staying in very cool water for long periods can lower your body temperature. A temperature of 70°F (20°C) is positively balmy on land, but did you know that water below that temperature will feel cold to most swimmers? Your body temperature drops far more quickly in water than it does on land. And if you’re swimming, you’re using energy and losing body heat even faster than if you were keeping still. Monitor yourself when swimming in cold water and stay close to shore. If you feel your body start to shiver or your muscles cramp up, get out of the water quickly; it doesn’t take long for hypothermia to set in.

Alcohol and water never mix.Alcoholis involved in numerous water-related injuries and up to half of all water-related deaths. The statistics for teenage guys are particularly scary: One half of all adolescent male drownings are tied to alcohol use.

At the Water Park

OK, so you do more splashing than swimming, but it’s just as important to know your skill level at the water park as it is at the pool. Take a moment to read warnings and other signs. Each area in the water park can have different depths of water, so make sure you pay attention.

If you don’t know how to swim be sure to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket when necessary, and be sure there is lifeguard supervision. And make sure you do slide runs feet first or you’ll put yourself at risk for a ride that’s a lot less fun — one to your doctor or dentist.

Boating Safety

More people die in boating accidents every year than in airplane crashes or train wrecks, but a little common sense can make boating both enjoyable and safe. If you are going to go boating, make sure the captain or person handling the boat is experienced and competent.

Alcohol and water still don’t mix. One third of boating deaths are alcohol related. Alcohol distorts our judgment no matter where we are — but that distortion is even greater on the water. Because there are no road signs or lane markers on the water and the weather can be unpredictable, it’s important to be able to think quickly and react well under pressure. If you’re drinking, this can be almost impossible.

Also, the U.S. Coast Guard warns about a condition calledboater’s fatigue, which means that the wind, noise, heat, and vibration of the boat all combine to wear you down when you’re on the water.

Weather.Before boating, be sure the weather conditions are safe. The local radio, internet or TV stations can provide updated local forecast information.

Personal flotation devices.It’s always a good idea for everyone on the boat to wear a Coast Guard-approved life jacket, whether the boat is a large speedboat or a canoe — and whether you’re a good swimmer or not. Wearing a life jacket (also known as a personal flotation device, or PFD) is the law in some states for certain age groups, and you could face a stiff penalty for breaking it.

Your state may also require that you wear an approved life jacket for water skiing and other on-water activities. Wearing a PFD is like wearing a helmet while biking. It may take a few minutes to get used to it, but it definitely can be a lifesaver. Don’t leave land without it.

Stay in touch.Before going out on a boat, let somebody on land know your float plan (where you are going and about how long you’ll be out). That way, if you do get into trouble, someone will have an idea of where to look for you. If you’re going to be on the water for a long time, it’s a good idea to have a radio with you so you can check the weather reports. Water conducts electricity, so if you hear a storm warning, get off the water as quickly as you can.

Jet skis.If you’re using jet skis or personal watercraft, follow the same rules as you do for boating. You should also check out the laws in your area governing the use of personal watercraft. Some states won’t allow people under a certain age to operate these devices; others require you to take a course or pass a test before you can ride one.

Now Have Fun!

The pool and the beach are great places to learn new skills, socialize, and check out everyone’s new bathing suit. So don’t let paying attention to safety turn you off. Being prepared will make you feel more comfortable and in charge.

Reviewed by:Yamini Durani, MD
Date reviewed: June 2014

Article From: TeensHealth.Org