People are diving from ancient times. Firstly, it was a process to get some benefits from the underwater world. For example, ama – Japanese women apnea divers 3000 years ago collected seaweeds, pearls, and shellfishes. There is also the whole group of Austronesian people of Bajo who actually lives in the water, mooring only occasionally.
As soon as freediving has become an official sport, there appeared lots of people who want to compete with each other, dive deeper into the ocean or further in the pool, set and overcome national records. Thanks to the athletes, it was possible to collect a lot of information about the effect of freediving on the body and to find out that actually freediving is affordable and safe for almost any person – of course, subject to certain rules. Modern recreational freediving has become a popular hobby among travelers because it allows you to try something new and exciting and to feel confident in the water. However, in addition to vivid emotions, freediving brings a lot of health benefits – especially for those who practice regularly.
Freediving is improving respiratory effectiveness. During the training, you learn how to fill the lungs until their maximum volume. This is a skill unfamiliar to most of the people unless they are advanced yogis. With the help of constant training and various stretching exercises, freedivers increase lung capacity and elasticity and develop respiratory muscles. The lungs start to work better. It has a great effect on the whole body: tissues are saturated by oxygen, dyspnea disappears, swelling decreases.
In addition, the elasticity of blood vessels (arteries and arterioles) is increasing, this affects the heart and lungs saturation. More flexible vessels can hold more blood and carry more oxygen to the vital organs of a person.
Oxygen consumption efficiency
The duration of our stay under the water depends on how efficiently we consume oxygen. Oxygen consumption efficiency is the ratio of the amount of oxygen consumed to body weight. It depends on the concentration of hemoglobin (red blood cells containing it) in the blood. Intense cardio training help to increase it — there are lots of researches with runners proving it.
During diving, we launch a quick and complex reaction of the body – mammalial dive reflex. One of this reflex is splin effect – the spleen contracts, releasing more red blood cells into the blood and quickly increasing the efficiency of oxygen consumption. Deep freedivers the composition of the blood becomes similar to that of alpine residents. It happens because of the decrease in the critical threshold of oxygen partial pressure. As a result of the ability of the brain and muscles to work in conditions of low oxygen content increases.
Isn’t this a useful skill for living in a big city, where we are constantly in conditions of hypoxia?
While many terrestrial sports give a heavy strain on joints, water disciplines can reduce intra-articular pressure, relieve swelling, and even increase the range of mobility. This is because the hydrostatic pressure underwater is distributed over the entire surface of the body instead of a strain during the usual terrestrial activity. That is why people with weak joints are prescribed swimming and water gymnastics.
During freediving, you learn to control your body under the water, distribute the load on the entire surface of the arms and legs, move smoothly, but efficiently – because excess tension leads to an increase in oxygen consumption.
Freediving is a constant movement. Even during deep training, when it seems that you dive in a relaxed state just several times, the muscles work intensively. Because you need to dive firstly, overcoming the positive buoyancy, and after that, on the contrary, get to the surface, fighting the negative. You will especially feel the muscles if you practice diving with brass without fins.
In addition to direct training, you also need to get to the dive site, drag equipment, install it, and also provide safety for your partner. If you train in the pool you don’t have to carry equipment, but dynamic disciplines in freediving are the hardest for muscles. In conditions of hypoxia, muscles get tired very quickly and the training effectiveness increases. Muscles supply by oxygen better, the amount of mitochondria increases, athletic performance, and endurance also increase.
Athletes in a variety of disciplines use hypoxic training. They put on special masks or go to the mountains. In freediving, you don’t need to do something extra. However, advanced freedivers don’t train only in the water, they also do yoga, running, and go to the gym to strengthen the circulatory system and physical strength.
Flexibility and stretching
Freedivers pay great attention to the development of body flexibility – especially the respiratory muscles. Deep diving requires good elasticity of the chest and diaphragm – this is necessary in order to gain more air and avoid injury at the depth.
On the courses for advanced freedivers, there are chest stretching exercises and full body stretching classes before each water session. Flexibility allows you to increase the amplitude of movements, make them more efficient and smooth. To stay in shape, many freedivers regularly work on stretching on land and practice yoga.
Relaxation is one of the most important parts of freediving. To dive well, pleasantly and safely, you need to be completely relaxed before, during, and after the dive – only in this case the oxygen consumption rate will remain low, and the time spent under the water will be large. Relaxation is very important in depth because that is the only way to protect our body from injuries associated with pressure changes.
During freediving courses, there is always lots of theory and practice dedicated to meditation techniques, relaxation exercises, and avoiding everyday stress during training. Due to the conscious development of these skills, freediving athletes have lower rates of background anxiety, stress symptoms, and negative affectivity compared to ordinary people.
One of the main goals of freediving training is to learn to listen to your body and to aware, understand, and control it. Together with the development of these skills appear confidence in oneself and one’s actions, which is very important for good relaxation, concentration, and control of the emotional state. A confident and calm freediver not only increases his own performance but also becomes an excellent partner and a reliable person to ensure safety.
As soon as you learn to aware and understand your body, you begin to pay attention not only to the training itself but also to the general condition, daily routine and nutrition. Nutrition, by the way, can greatly affect the success of your dives, but here everything is very individual. Freedivers who want to get the best results, monitor their diet carefully, and even keep a special diary – which will positively affect their overall health in the future.