Is It Safe To Swim After Thanksgiving Dinner?

Thanksgiving Dinner on a table with the swimming pool in the background

Have you ever been told not to swim for at least 30 minutes after eating because you could get a cramp and drown? So, will you really get a muscle cramp if you swim too soon after eating Thanksgiving dinner or is this just an old wives' tale?

The main theory behind the “no swimming after eating” is that if you’ve eaten a heavy meal, you’re likely to develop cramps because blood has been diverted from your extremities to your stomach for digestion, and if you have cramps while swimming you could drown.

While it sounds plausible, there’s actually no evidence that this is true.

More blood is sent to the stomach to aid in digestion, especially after a big meal, but the amount diverted isn’t enough to impact our ability to swim or affect the performance of our muscles. In fact, some gentle exercise, such as swimming, can help stimulate metabolism and expend some of those extra calories after a heavy meal. However, if you’re prone to stomach issues after eating, you should probably continue to follow the rest for 30 to 60 minutes before swimming rule – just to be safe.

Cramps, especially in legs and feet, do happen to swimmers but it’s not caused by eating and then swimming. Here are a few tips to help you avoid cramps while swimming:

  • Exposure to cold water can increase the likelihood of developing muscle cramps so make sure the water temperature in the pool isn’t too cold.
  • Muscle cramps can be caused by dehydration and consuming alcoholic beverages add to dehydration. Make sure to stay hydrated this holiday season by increasing your water intake.
  • Gently stretch your thighs and calves before you get into the pool to loosen up the muscles.
  • Know your limits and don’t overexert yourself because muscles are more prone to cramping during and after overexertion.

So there you have it; it’s perfectly fine to swim after Thanksgiving dinner! But just because it’s a holiday doesn’t mean you should forget to follow these safety rules:

  • Never swim alone (this applies to adults too!) and make sure that children are supervised by a sober adult at all times. Small children should stay within arm’s reach of a grown-up.
  • Schedule your Thanksgiving dinner a little later so you and your family can enjoy some time in the pool before eating a big meal (and work up an appetite!) or serve an early dinner so there’s more time to digest the food and enjoy the pool afterwards.
  • With many friends and family around, things can get chaotic. Remind everyone about pool safety (e.g., not to run around the pool) and put up signs as a reminder.
  • Pool toys (e.g., noodles,) arm floaties, and air-filled tubes are fun but they can’t save anyone from drowning. Even if a child has arm-floaties on, they should always be supervised by an adult.

Have a very happy and safe Thanksgiving!