There are some things our mothers tell us that we believe because, after all, they are our mothers. And we even pass these beliefs on to our children. Chicken soup is good for a cold. Go to the bathroom before getting into the car. Wait an hour after eating before you go swimming. Sometimes experience shows us these are good ideas, as in the one about going to the bathroom. Sometimes science actually shows them to be true, as with the chicken soup. But sometimes there is no basis for them.
We do not have to wait an hour after eating before swimming. Many people don’t, and are here to tell about it.
When I began to search for the answer to this fact or myth question, I found one person at Yahoo! Answers who said that her local pool recommends an hour but she has to wait two hours or she gets a stomach ache. Curiously, that was voted best answer, though the other answers I read all said the opposite. The New York Times, snopes.com, and the CBC all confirm this is an old wives tale.
Think of all the things you could have done with all the time you have wasted after eating!
There was a scientific reason given for this originally. When we are digesting a meal, more oxygen-carrying blood goes to the stomach and intestines to aid the process. When we swim or do other types of exercise, our muscles need more oxygen. Therefore, the reasoning went, digestion would keep the needed oxygen supply from our muscles, and could cause cramping.
We have plenty of blood for both, it turns out. If we are training for the Olympics, it is probably better not to eat, since cramps can interfere with performance. But for most of us, the kind of meals we eat and the kind of swimming we do are no problem. Cramps are more likely to occur in the feet or legs than in the stomach in any case, and generally do not last long. Even a stomach cramp in a public pool or beach will let us get out of the water safely.
Less than one percent of drownings occur after a meal. However, alcohol is a factor in many drownings. Studies of drownings among adolescents and among adults show alcohol was involved in more than a quarter of drowning deaths. If you are going to eat before swimming, skip the beer or wine and enjoy the water.
The New York Times