Are Smarter Than You
Men’s Health Article by Andrew Katz November
27, 2012, 06:01 pm EST
Genius in the making?
Middle school may have been a
helluva lot easier if you had spent a little more time in the pool. New research out of Australia says that children who are taught to swim at an early age hit
certain physical and developmental milestones faster than kids who learn later
Over the span of 3 years,
researchers surveyed the parents of more than 7,000 children age 5 and under
and found that the age kids learned to swim correlated with when they began
accomplishing certain skills. In pre-school, early swimmers had better
visual-motor skills (like cutting paper and drawing lines and shapes), but also
fared better as they got older (i.e. understanding directions, math, and
writing and reading skills).
Turns out, some of what you learn in
the classroom (or in your day-to-day experiences) is similar to what you learn
in a pool, says lead study author Robyn Jorgensen, Ph.D., a professor and
senior fellow at the Griffith Institute for Educational Research. There’s a
strong synergy between language and action with swimming that’s essential for
many cognitive and motor skills, she adds. Kids learn at an early age to hear
language and make connections with their bodies (for example, counting to 10
And it doesn’t take long to see the
effects, either: When researchers observed swimming lessons, they found that
the kids’ eyes blinked in preparation for the ready cue—”one, two, three,
go!”—a clear sign that young kids can understand language and react accordingly
even if they can’t communicate everything clearly.
Your move: Sign your kids up for
lessons—and keep ‘em going. In Jorgensen’s study, the earlier the child started
and the longer they remained in the swimming lessons, the greater the gains,
she says. And it wouldn’t hurt to jump in the pool yourself: Besides the added
benefit of challenging yourself through switching up your workout, water is
about 1,000 times denser than air, so a swim workout can be tougher on you.
You’ll burn almost the same amount of calories each minute as you would
biking—but you can kiss dodging traffic or worrying about your joints goodbye.
Haven’t been in the water since high school? Visit the Men’s Health Adventure Guide to get