Is it true you have to wait to swim after eating?

Many of us spent our younger lives being told we had to wait at least half-an-hour before we could swim after we ate. The reason, I was always told, was to avoid cramps that could cause me to drown. In not wanting to drown, I would obediently sit and wait for 30 minutes, hoping my potential “cramps” would know the time was up.

Many people believed that your pylorus, an area of muscle between the stomach and intestines, would cramp and cause a swimmer to drown, or at the very least, be unable to keep their head above water. Others believed that eating before swimming diverted the blood flow from your arms and legs to your stomach for digestion, which too, could cause you to drown.

So, do you need to wait 30 minutes before swimming after eating? According to a Mayo Clinic emergency medical physician, the answer is no since there is no scientific basis for such a recommendation. He says some people may experience minor cramps, depending on how full the belly is, but it is not a reason to avoid swimming.

While it is true that the digestive process does divert blood toward the stomach to aid in digestion, it is not enough blood to keep your arm and leg muscles from functioning properly.

According to Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, neither the American Academy of Pediatrics nor the American Red Cross makes any specific recommendations about waiting for any specific amount of time after eating before swimming.