A study finds that infants experience significant heart rate decreases while participating in a swim

A study published by The Journal of Sports Medicine and physical fitness in 2016, found that while participating in a well-designed swimming program, infants experience significant heart rate (hr) adaptations, namely decreases, which further suggest decreases in stressful behaviour as well as a higher capability to perform basic aquatic motor skills.

See the article's Abstract below:

[Costa, Mário & M Barbosa, Tiago & Ramos, Alberto & A Marinho, Daniel. (2014). Effects of a swimming program on infants' heart rate response. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness. 56.]

Effects of a swimming program on infants' heart rate response.

Costa MJ1, Barbosa TM, Ramos A, Marinho DA.



The physiological response has been used to characterize or estimate physical demands while exercising. The aim of this study was to analyse the infant's physiological adaptations over an intervention water program.


Fourteen infants (5-36 months old) were tested before (M1) and 4 months after (M2) in a well-designed swimming program aiming to develop aquatic readiness, cognitive behaviour and social interaction.

The physiological response was assessed based on heart rate measurements (HR, bpm) at a sampling rate of 1 Hz during several basic aquatic motor skills:

1) individual displacement in ventral position – abdomen

2) Individual displacement in vertical position (HR@InD)

3) Immersion (HR@Im)

4) Voluntary underwater displacement

5) Jump from the swimming mat

6) Jump from the deck (HR@JD)

7) Enter the water from a swimming slider (HR@Sli)


The HR at immersion showed the lowest values (~119 bpm) at the end of the program. Main trend was for a HR decreased over time (HR@Im: -14.17±17.76%; HR@InD: -8.16±9.16%; HR@JD: -10.36±12.70%; HR@Sli: -3.48±6.40%. In all other skills, HR remained unchanged.


The findings suggest that infants experience significant heart rate adaptat