We’ve all heard it. You shouldn’t swim for a half-hour after eating. It’s a piece of advice we have heard since childhood. In fact, it was first published in the Boy Scout’s guidebook in 1908. The book claimed you had to wait 90 minutes after eating before swimming or, “You may drown — and it will be your own fault.”
This terrifying advice has been around for at least a hundred years, but it’s just a myth. The claim is that digestion diverts blood to the stomach away from muscles; if you try to swim, you will have cramps and may drown. The Mayo Clinic says there is no truth to it. In the 1960s, researchers took a look at the claim and found athletes didn’t feel any ill effects — or even see a dip in their performance — when they ate right before getting in the pool.
“It’s an old wives’ tale,” said Peter Wernicki, a Red Cross Scientific Advisory Council member. “It’s absolutely fine to go swimming any time after you eat.” He says there has never been a recorded incident of someone drowning because they had just eaten.
Low-impact exercise, like swimming, after a meal can help keep blood sugar stable. If you have blood sugar concerns and want to avoid spikes, swimming after a meal can be a great way to help yourself. Jumping into the pool for a post-meal swim could be just the thing to help maintain normal blood sugar.
“During exercise your heart rate and respiration increase which utilizes glucose from your bloodstream,” said licensed dietician nutritionist Rebecca Washuta. “Additionally, your muscles also take up glucose when they contract, pulling more glucose out of your bloodstream, and ultimately lowering your blood sugar.”
“Eating properly before a swim helps to develop your strength and cardiovascular fitness to improve your overall performance,” said Dr. Charlotte Norton. She advises skipping foods that could upset your stomach or cause diarrhea or indigestion.
The thing people don’t talk about is staying hydrated while swimming. Like any other exercise, you sweat and lose moisture and salt from your body as you swim. You don’t realize it because you feel cool from the water and, being wet, you don’t notice the perspiration. Losing some moisture is fine. But, if you’re swimming for more than an hour, you should take a water break.
With the hot summer days here to stay for a few months, finding ways to exercise and stay cool is crucial. Swimming can be a great way to keep fit and beat the heat. You don’t have to worry about timing your exercise around your meals. Just remember to drink plenty of fluids and have a good time!