Medical myths: You shouldn't swim for an hour after eating
We usually learn this myth as children, but is there truth to the idea that you shouldn't swim for at least an hour after eating? Our resident myth buster, Dr Max Pemberton, has the answers.
Where did the myth come from?
I vividly recall the frustration as a child of being on holiday and having to wait a whole hour after lunch before we were allowed back into the sea to swim.
My sister and I would plead with our mum to let us at least paddle. But the temptation to go deeper and deeper was just too much and before we knew it, we’d be on our fronts and our mum would be on the shore shouting at us to stop.
I seem to recall that we were warned that at best we’d be sick and at worst we’d drown. This worry is based on the idea that when you are digesting food, the body diverts blood to the stomach.
This weakens the muscles, making them liable to have cramps and thus get into difficulty when swimming.
What’s the truth?
There is not a single official medical organisation or group anywhere in the world which expresses concern or warns about this.
There are also no recorded cases of food being cited as a reason for someone drowning or nearly drowning.
From a medical perspective, it’s true that after a meal blood is diverted to the stomach, but it doesn’t happen to the extent that the muscle in your limbs are unable to work properly.
So there’s nothing to worry about?
While any sort of vigorous exercise can be uncomfortable after a large meal, there’s no special reason why you can’t enjoy a leisurely dip after eating.
Cramps can occur at any time and are nothing to do with whether you have eaten or not.