CHILDREN who swim from a young age are sometimes more than a year ahead of their peers in their cognitive and physical development, research to be released today shows.
Researchers from the Griffith Institute for Educational Research, Laurie Lawrence's Kids Alive Swim Program and Swim Australia surveyed parents of 7000 children aged five years old and under from Australia, New Zealand and the United States as part of the four-year study, which was funded by the swim school industry.
The Australian component included observing more than 120 swimming lessons in 40 swim schools in Queensland, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria.
Further, a core group of 179 three, four and five-year-old children was involved in a more intensive assessment process.
Information was then compared to the expected progression of children through established milestones.
Researcher Professor Robyn Jorgensen said many of the results surpassed expectations and indicated swimming children had an advantage when starting school.
"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," Prof 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."
Prof Jorgensen said the findings would have 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 disadvantaged communities.
On average, swimming children were 11 months ahead of the normal population in oral expression, six months ahead in mathematics reasoning, and two months ahead in brief reading.
As well as achieving physical milestones faster, the swimming children also scored significantly better in visual-motor skills.
They were significantly better than the normal population in story recall (17 months ahead) and understanding directions (20 months ahead).
Findings from the study will be released at Griffith University's Mt Gravatt Aquatic and Fitness Centre on Tuesday.