SWIMMING AFFECTS GROWTH IN A SPECIFIC WAY
Benefice, E., Mercier, J., Guerin, M. J., & Prefaut, C. (1990). Differences in aerobic and anthropometric characteristics between peripubertal and non-swimmers. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 11, 456-460.
Attempts were made to describe differences in aerobic and anthropometrical measures associated with moderate regular swimming in children prior to and in the early stages of puberty as compared to non-swimmers. Boys (swimmers = 45; others = 95) ranging in ages from 12 to 15 years were studied. Swimmers trained for three to five 2-hour sessions per week.
It was found that the groups did not differ in maturation rates or stages. Swimmers did have a greater aerobic capacity, arm and chest circumference, body weight, and muscle mass than non-swimmers.
The increase in chest circumference may be seen as a response to the breathing restrictions and hyperventilation imposed by swimming as well as increasing buoyancy. The greater lean body mass corresponds to a need for muscular strength. Thus, the observed anthropometric developments of the young swimmers may be seen as specific adaptive responses to the requirements of their activity (e.g., the swimmers' upper body features grew more whereas their lower limbs did not).
Implication. Swimming appears to produce specific growth adaptations that benefit performance in the sport. Those changes do not influence normal growth or maturation in developing young males.
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