A person takes many breaths in a minute. How do freedivers manage to hold their breath for so long while underwater?
Normally, a person takes a breath about once every four seconds, but a trained freediver can hold his breath for more than ten minutes, thereby “missing” about 150 breaths.
Lack of breathing is a big test for the body, which is forced not only to be content with an extremely small amount of oxygen, but also to do something with the lactic acid that muscles produce when they work without oxygen.
This is how the body functions without oxygen
The priority of the arms and legs is lowered
Vessels in the arms, legs, and other non-vital parts of the body are compressed to consume less oxygen. Instead, blood flows to important organs in the chest and abdomen.
Blood reserve is used
The spleen contracts, releasing stores of extra red blood cells into the bloodstream so that more oxygen can be transported through the body.
The lungs are stabilized
The air bubbles of the lungs are filled with blood plasma in order to stabilize and not collapse under high pressure conditions under water.
Blood flow slows down
Heart rate decreases, blood flows more slowly, and cells' access to precious oxygen is limited.
The psyche is also undergoing a difficult test, because you need to cope with the fear of drowning. If the freediver does not completely relax, stress hormones will cause the heart to beat faster, which means that oxygen will also be consumed more actively.
In addition to general psychological and physical training, freedivers also use a number of special breathing techniques to train themselves to hold their breath and survive practically without oxygen, developing the so-called diver reflex.
Reflex that conserves oxygen
As soon as the head is under water, a number of physiological processes begin in the body, which are called the diver's reflex. Thanks to these processes, the survival time of the organism without oxygen increases. For example, the heart begins to beat more slowly, and blood vessels constrict, sending oxygen to important organs.
During one of these exercises, the diver holds his breath for a minute while remaining motionless.
Then, still not breathing air, the diver should go as far as he can. Then he takes a deep breath and regains control of his breathing. After a couple of minutes, the exercise is repeated.
Immediately before the competition, the diver performs a series of exercises that slow down metabolism, breathing and heartbeat, and also reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the blood. The purpose of these breathing exercises is to remove large amounts of carbon dioxide from the blood.
Diving Record Book
Freedivers compete in a range of disciplines with and without aids.
11 minutes 35 seconds
Longest immobility underwater.
Committed by: Stéphane Mifsud, France.
Longest horizontal distance traveled underwater with fins.
Committed by: Mateusz Malina, Poland.
The deepest dive without weighting, but with fins.
Committed by: Alexey Molchanov, Russia.
214 meters away
Deepest weight dive.
Performed by: Herbert Nitsch, Austria.