In a study out of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, researchers compared the physical abilities of 5-year-olds who had swimming lessons as infants against those who did not. What they found was that the kids who had been swimming as babies did better than their non-swimming counterparts in exercises requiring balance and the ability to reach for things.
For the study, 38 babies ages 2 to 3 months were divided into two groups. The first group was given swimming lessons involving somersaulting on floating mats, diving under water, jumping into the pool and balancing on the hands of their parents while reaching for floating objects. The other group of babies did not participate in water exercises at all.
The lessons continued twice weekly until the babies were 7 months old. At the age of five years, the swimmers and non-swimmers were tested with physical exercises that included walking on tiptoes, balancing on one foot, jumping rope, rolling a ball into a goal and catching beanbags. Researchers say the difference in abilities were marked with the former baby swimmers far outperforming the non-swimmers.
Though the researchers are excited to have data that shows that specific training in very young children can be traced to performance later in life, the experiment was somewhat limited in that they ended it when the kids were five. Whether this advantage is one that continues to develop or one that merely gives them an edge on the kindergarten playground isn’t entirely clear.
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