There has long been the belief that you shouldn’t go swimming for at least an hour after you eat, this old wives tale is advice that has been handed down over the years and many people have argued the long standing tradition over the years. In fact there are several pros and cons to the belief depending on who you talk to even among many medical professionals.
Many medical professionals will say there is no need to stay out of the water for one full hour however that largely depends on what kind of water activity you depend on doing. I have long lived around a large man made lake with some pretty deep water and swimming in water over your head especially if you are not a truly experienced swimmer can be dangerous if you have even one extra pound holding your back. While the old wives tale may have been based on a mistaken theory that the full stomach digestion process will somehow take away some of the oxygen needed for the muscles needed in swimming. However in reality a person’s body has more than enough oxygen supply for both stomach digestion and the muscular system that is needed for physical activity such as swimming.
This also is true for the belief that somehow diving into water soon after a meal will in some way heighten the risk of a person drowning. The simple facts are that an average meal shouldn’t have any effect on any ones ability to dive or swim in water.
However just as there are contrary beliefs to the tradition there are also supporters for the long standing argument of not swimming so soon after a meal. For example competitive swimmers are aware that eating a large meal before any swimming event puts them at risk for getting cramps, which can severely impair their performance. Another supportive factor for staying away from the water is drinking alcohol. There have been many statistical studies done on the percentage of drowning deaths and alcohol consumption. According to some studies the percentage of drowning deaths connected to alcohol could be as high as 40%, however most people will argue that drowning deaths due to alcohol have little to due with the consumption of a liquid and everything to do with what kind of liquid was consumed because alcohol has an intoxicating and tranquilizing effect which can cause people to lose consciousness, experience a lack in judgment, coordination and even hallucinate.
Having lived most of my life around water I can honestly tell you from first hand experience eating a large meal or drinking a large amount of fluid can severely impair your physical stamina when swimming in deep water or treading water for an extended amount of time.
I’m certain that most people given the chance to test whether they can eat a full meal and then swim a significant distance would more than likely pass due to their knowledge of the physical ability that it takes to complete such as task, at least the majority of people I know including myself wouldn’t attempt it.
References for this article include: www.abc.net.au/health/talkinghealth/factbuster/stories/2007/05/26/1958053.htm