When people think of scuba diving, fun leisure activity is what often comes to mind. However, aside from the obvious exercise and fitness, there are a lot of health benefits that people don’t really talk about. As if we needed more reasons to go diving!
Working on your breathing technique is vital as a diver, slow and deep breaths are best for optimizing and conserving air consumption. Breathing in this way allows you to strengthen your lungs by increasing their capacity and helping to drain mucus. This also lowers the risk of lung-expansion injury as you have more control over your breathing.
The increased oxygen taken in by the lungs increases energy levels, improves circulation and the function of the heart and lungs.
Circulation and cardiac health
As with all sports, exercising gets your heart pumping and your blood moving. The heart is a muscle and the more you use a muscle, the stronger and more efficient it gets. It goes without saying that since diving is a great form of exercise, it will increase your heart health and efficiency.
When initially jumping in the water, blood pressure and heart rate increase due to blood vessels constricting as the water is lower than body temperature. However once your body adjusts, your heart rate and blood pressure will lower. The deep breathing technique used when scuba diving also will reduce blood pressure further.
Joints and muscles
When in water, 90% of your body weight is supported which means that there will be less pressure on your joints. This is why diving is considered a low impact sport and can be a great form of manageable exercise for those with musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. Until very recently I was waiting for a total hip replacement, so diving was a welcome release to the stiffness and constant pain. Now that I have my new bionic hip and have been medical certified to be fit to dive there will be no stopping me! Since, water also provides a natural resistance, when you do start moving about you will be exercising and toning your core and leg muscles.
If you further consider any heavy gear on your back, you are essentially carrying around weights with almost no effort. You will be so enchanted by the marine life around you won’t even notice the amount of exercise and muscle training you have managed.
Vitamin D and other minerals
When diving, not only are you receiving exposure to vitamin D through sunlight, but you are also exposed to a variety of natural minerals found in the water. Getting enough vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium for repairing and strengthening bones.
Sodium and iodine salts are very abundant in sea water and are known to have antiseptic properties, but please be careful with open wounds in water as there is potential for infection due to the rich natural wildlife.
Oceans are also naturally rich in other salts like magnesium which have therapeutic properties such as aiding moisture retention when absorbed by the skin. Studies have shown that taking a dip in the ocean can be a wonderful natural remedy for skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema therefore many people are prescribed thalassotherapy (sea water therapy) for these ailments.
It’s commonly known that doing exercise produces endorphins which can be very beneficial to mental health. But the peace and tranquillity of sailing through the water can be so soothing. In addition, diving requires deep and slow breathing not unlike the stress-relieving breathing techniques used during meditation and relaxation.
Depending on where you dive you may be met with only the sounds of nature and the bubbling of your equipment. Exploring a hidden world beneath the waves can be a grounding and humbling experience allowing you to appreciate the beauty around you and refocus on what is important in life.
You also have some awesome organisations like Deptherapy (https://deptherapy.co.uk) that specialise in adaptative diving for UK Armed Forces Veterans and serving personnel who have been injured. By this I mean mentally or physically. The work they do is seriously inspirational.