You may recall a number of rules your mother had about swimming: that you shouldn’t swim less than one hour after you eat, or that staying in the pool for too long would bleach your hair and make it change color. Perhaps these were first invented by parents who were trying to scare their children out of the water. While no one knows where these sayings first started, we now have modern research and decades of data to help us disprove (or prove!) these common swimming stories.
Swimming is not exercise
Because swimming is generally associated with fun summer activities, many people do not believe it can actually contribute to fat loss and fitness. On the contrary, a 155-pound person swimming freestyle for one hour can burn 490 calories swimming at a slow, leisurely pace! That is almost twice the calories contained in a single Big Mac burger! Swimming faster for an hour can even burn up to 700 calories. Of course, the amount burnt will depend on one’s weight and metabolism, but it is certainly not true that swimming is not a form of exercise.
Fitness and weight loss are in fact one of the main benefits of swimming, recommended as the ideal cardio workout for anyone wishing to avoid impact to their knees and joints.
You wait one hour after eating before you get in the water
The length of time we have been told to wait varies -- sometimes 30 minutes or sometimes as long as 1.5 hours. Everyone has heard this “rule” yet no one knows why we say it! The myth continues to say you will get cramps from swimming after you eat (the more horrific tales claim you will be at risk of drowning) or that all the “bouncing” in the water it will upset your digestion. In fact there is no evidence to support any of these connections!
Talk to any swimming athlete or even just a person who swims for fitness, and they will tell you how difficult it is to train on an empty stomach. What causes muscle cramps are lack of hydration, nerve compression, or not enough potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet. Having a meal before exercise is certainly not on this list. And while drowning is statistically the leading cause of accidental death, having eaten is not a factor that features in why a person drowns. The main causes of drowning for children not knowing how to swim, or not having supervision or enough fencing around pools. In adults, a major cause is drinking alcohol before swimming.
You need to shower before getting into the pool
This “myth” should actually be taken seriously, but it’s important that we understand why. Too often we focus on taking a shower after the swim when it’s just as important to be clean before we enter the water. Some people believe that dousing themselves with water before entering a pool will lessen the impact of chlorine on their skin. In fact, the reason we are told to shower before entering a swimming pool is to wash off wash off any perspiration, body oil, urine, and other wastes that may enter the pool contaminate the water.
Especially when using a public pool, one must consider the general cleanliness of the water fort themselves and everyone else using the facility. A thorough pre-swim shower with soap helps minimize the irritating, foul-smelling substances formed in pool water when chemicals from the bodies of swimmers combine with chlorine. Many people believe that the “swimming pool smell” is due to chlorine. In fact, it is the smell produced as chlorine reacts to clean the impurities. To avoid contributing to the dirt factor of a pool, be kind to others and shower before entering it.
It's okay to pee in the pool because there's chlorine in the water
We cannot stress this enough: it is very bad to pee in pools. Perhaps people think it is safe to urinate in pools because they believe chlorine will kill bacteria. Chlorine does not, in fact, kill the contents of our urine. Other than being rude and truly gross (who wants to swim in their own pee?!) uric acid, the chemical contained in urine (and sweat) produces a reaction with chlorine that results in cyanogen chloride and trichloramine. When inhaled, studies have shown a link causing teenagers to get asthma or signs of lung irritation in children who swam frequently. Research published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology shows these toxic compounds can harm organs like the lungs, heart, and central nervous system.
If you have any more questions about what’s fact or fiction when in comes to swimming, never hesitate to ask anyone on Our Team of trained experts and coaches!