Posted by: ~KC~ | July 16, 2008

Old Wives Tale… Maybe?

1960-1970-1980 or even maybe 1990…

It’s a glorious hot summer day… and you are on your summer vacation.

You just ate your sandwich/hotdog/hamburger.

The beach water beackons.

But you can hear your mom admonishing you… “It hasn’t been a hour – you have to wait before you can go swimming!




I remember hating to hear that.  What a damper eating lunch was when near the pool or at the beach!  I would avoid eating for a long as I could so that I could play as long as I wanted in the water with no interruptions.  And until I could no longer ignore the rumblings of my tummy – I ignored all calls to food.  How things have changed… ugh!


But has one ever wondered why we couldn’t swim for at least one hour after eating??  Is there any truth to this long held belief (one could drown if you go swimming immediately after swimming) … that has been passed on from generation to generation?


Well… HERE it is… finally – some clarification into this tale of two cities…


Ian Fleming, an archivist at the YMCA’s Canadian head office, did find a bit of documented evidence, in “The Royal Life Saving Society Handbook of Instruction,” published in 1936.


“The most suitable time to bathe is about two hours after a meal, when food taken previously will have become partially digested,” it advises in its “Hints to Bathers.”


“On no account bathe shortly after a hearty meal, when exhausted from vigorous exercise, when the body is cooling after perspiring nor, on the other hand, when shivering …”


The presumption is that the “don’t swim after eating” advice was based on the idea that the stomach and the limbs would be competing for oxygen-rich blood.


“My guess is the theory at the time was something along the lines of: Well, you’ve just eaten a lot of food, therefore you’re sending a lot of your blood to the gut area … therefore it’s not available to the muscles and therefore you may get into trouble while swimming,” Sleivert says.”


Dr. Peter Wernicki, aquatics chair of the American Red Cross advisory council on first aid, aquatics, safety and preparedness, says it is true some blood is shunted to the gut in digestion.


“(But) any healthy person has plenty of blood and plenty of oxygen and they can do both,” he says from Vero Beach, Fla.


“If you really are going to vigorously exercise – any exercise – eating a large meal beforehand is not a great idea,” Wernicki adds. “It can make you uncomfortable. It might affect your performance somewhat. But it’s not going to make you drown.”


Sleivert says there is a theory that “stitches” – as in a stitch in your side – are caused by the weight of a full stomach on the ligaments that hold it in place. But he suggests running on a full stomach is more likely to trigger a stitch than swimming.


So… what is to be done?  Can we swim within moment of eating?  Can we tell our kids to wait to digest before playing in the water?  Remember – Olympic swimmers are encouraged to snack before a swim…


“Dalke says that when asked for advice on this issue, the Canadian Red Cross suggests parents use their own judgment.


“With the children, the message we really want to say is: You have to take a look at what it is that they’re eating and what activity they’re going to engage in,” she says from Vancouver.


“If they eat a heavy meal and then their intention is to go swim a great distance in the lake or a pool, then you need to take that into consideration. But if it’s a typical lunch kind of thing or a typical snack and your child does not normally suffer cramps after eating, then this activity shouldn’t be any different than any others.”



  1. Just jump in the pool already. You’ll be fine!

  2. AMEN!!!!
    Woohoo… perfect time ’cause I have a pool party to go to this weekend!

  3. I wouldn’t be worried about swimming after eating… but I would be more concerned about kids barfing in the pool after too many cheese weenies. *blech*

  4. hmm… yeah. I guess that’s why they say – Parents to use their own judgement!

    Gross… !

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