Our top 10 health benefits of freediving shows the beginner just what you can get out of freediving, and is a reminder to seasoned pros how freediving has improved all areas of their life.
Often, when people think about freediving, they think about the potential risks and dangers. However, if done properly, freediving is incredibly safe and has benefits that go way beyond how you feel in the water. Learning freediving skills and techniques improves your breathing, lung function, confidence, water safety, body awareness and more.
Read on to discover the top 10 health benefits of freediving and why you should learn to freedive today!
#1 – Reduced Stress
Many people think that freediving is an extreme, adrenaline fuelled sport. They couldn’t be more wrong. Sure, high level competitive freedivers push the envelope, but they’re the Simone Biles of the freediving world. The majority of people who freedive are freediving relatively shallow compared to competitors, and no freediver can perform a successful freedive if they are pumped up full on adrenaline.
This is one critical difference between freediving and almost every other sport – you simply can’t freedive unless you are relaxed. If your heart rate is through the roof then your dive will be shallow, short and not very safe. The first thing you learn on a freediving course is how to relax through controlling the breath. We teach students to ‘imagine that you’re so relaxed you’re falling asleep’. When you relax, your heart rate lowers and you’re more aware and in control of what your body is doing. This means that your freedive is longer, safer, and more enjoyable.
But these relaxation benefits go way beyond the water. We have had numerous testimonials from students about how freediving has changed their entire outlook on life. They tell us how they are not so stressed at work or at home, and how the techniques they have learnt have changed how they react to difficult situations. Ultimately, freediving has reduced their stress.
#2 -Increased Water Confidence and Safety
Freediving may be seen by some as a risky sport, but ironically, if you learn to freedive, you’re now going to be far safer in the water, whether you’re freediving, scuba diving, surfing, swimming, paddle-boarding, kayaking, or any other water based sport.
Many problems occur when someone panics in water. When panic sets in, the scuba diver may bolt for the surface or spit out their reg. When panic sets in, the surfer in a wipe out will attempt to swim, rather than relaxing and waiting for wave to pass. A swimmer will start flailing about when they feel like they are out of control.
When you learn to freedive, you are taught how to relax in the water, how to deal with cramp, or what to do if you lose a fin or mask. You will be rescuing someone from depth, and diving deeper that you ever thought possible.
On our beginner freediver course, when a student has been taken out of their comfort zone, and shown how much they can achieve, it often blows their mind. Then you ask them how easy it felt, and they have a light-bulb moment, when their self-imposed limitations disappear.
So often, we have scuba divers and surfers in particular, who finish a course and say ‘now I’ve done that, I know I’m not going to panic if I’m down at 10m on Scuba, or if I get wiped out.’ By teaching them freediving, their confidence in the water has grown exponentially and by extension, their safety.
#3 – Increased Lung Function & Improved Breathing
When you start in freediving, one of the first things you learn is how to take a full breath in. This is often an uncomfortable process as we are not used to using the full capacity of our lungs. With freediving and breathing training however, it soon becomes more comfortable, and soon a freediver is able to expand their vital capacity and make the best use of their lung volume.
Freediving also teaches you how to use the diaphragm more effectively to breathe. Diaphragmatic, or ‘belly’ breathing is a much more efficient way of oxygenating the body and puts the body under least stress.
Being able to fully exhale before a pre dive breath, also helps reduce the residual volume, allowing the lungs to take in more useable air.
What this means is that when you learn the breathing techniques necessary for effective freediving, you improve your lung function. Emma Farrell, lead instructor at Go Freediving, has used freediving breathing exercises and techniques when working with elite Olympic and Paralympic cyclists and swimmers. She has seen individuals on her program increase their lung function by 10%, even though they were already training as full time athletes.
The benefits were that they are able to race faster and with better recovery time. The improvements to breathing and lung function also improved their asthma. Learn to freedive and you’ll be breathing more efficiently.
#4 Improved Sinuses and Reduced Congestion
If you have sinus congestion then freediving is almost impossible. When we descend in water, the air spaces in our body get smaller and must be equalised by the addition of more air volume. If air cannot flow into our sinuses to equalise them then pressure builds up and causes pain and, if pushed, the rupturing of the sinus capillaries, causing nose bleeds.
Sinus congestion can be chronic and impacts on all aspects of people’s lives, causing headaches, disturbed sleep, snoring and chest infections due to prolonged mouth breathing.
So learning how to release sinus congestion is an important part of the freediving journey if you suffer from a blocked nose. Freedivers learn a whole variety of techniques to clear the sinuses, from sinus massage, to steam inhalation, to the use of a neti pot, to diet and cranial osteopathy.
The wife of one student remarked that she was so glad that her husband had taken a freediving course as it meant that he no longer snored! The benefits of clear sinuses is far reaching and goes beyond freediving to impact all aspects of a person’s life for the better.
#5 Improved Fitness and Flexibility
You don’t need to be fit to freedive, or be able to touch your toes, but when you start freediving, fitness and flexibility usually follow. Training for freediving doesn’t have to happen in the water. Many sports as diverse as gym work and yoga, help to build freediving fitness.
When you learn to freedive, your instructor will help guide your physical training and recommend a fitness program for you. This could be as simple as walking, using a mixture of aerobic walking and apnea walking. Or gym work to improve muscle strength or cardiovascular fitness.
As you start to safely dive deeper, rib cage and diaphragm flexibility will follow. This can be augmented by the dry stretching exercises taught to you on your advanced freediver course and those you might do as part of a yoga class. General whole body stretching is also taught on every freediving course, and on our holidays, the day starts with over an hour of breathing and stretching.
The more we move our body and have a full and free range of movement, the longer we live and the healthier we are. The increased fitness and flexibility that you have when you learn to freedive is a massive benefit to anyone looking to live a fit and active life.
#6 Better Wildlife Encounters & Greater Knowledge and Respect for the Ocean
Want to see more under the water? Become a freediver. If you dive gracefully down on a breath hold, then creatures under the water usually come and check you out. If you are blowing bubbles on the other hand, then you are more likely to scare them away.
Many of the biggest and best wildlife encounters are also not possible on Scuba. If you want to dive with whales, such as Pilot, Sperm, Blue, Humpback and Orcas then you are not allowed to do this on Scuba. Learn to freedive however and you can join them underwater, getting the most mind blowing encounters.
Diving with dolphins is also an incredibly special encounter that is often made even more memorable by being done on breath hold. Dolphins love the speed, freedom and flexibility under the water of freedivers and love playing with them.
You also gain a huge breadth of knowledge of the underwater world when you learn to freedive. Freediving on a reef you learn about the different creatures and their behaviour patterns. And as you learn about them, you gain a greater appreciation, understanding and awareness of the ocean and its inhabitants. This helps make better environmental decisions to help protect out planet.
#7 Better Body Awareness
Freediving teaches you better body awareness which has impacts in all areas of your life. When you learn to freedive, it’s difficult to know what you are doing when you can’t see yourself and your vision is restricted by a mask.
Imagine then trying to feel what your body is doing when it is upside down as you descend, in a medium (water) we are not used to. On top of that you are wearing a pair of fins which has increased the length of your body by a third to a half.
This forces us to become acutely aware of what our body is doing so that we can learn to freedive effectively and not bash our body or fins into another diver or anything under the water. On a freedive, you are focussed on minimising output whilst maximising efficiency. You only have one tank of air (the air in your lungs), and so have to learn to move as efficiently as possible to save all of your precious oxygen.
On a dive, the freediver is taught to constantly monitor what they are doing. Checking that equalisation is done properly and in time. Checking that the body is aligned and streamlined. Checking that the finning is correct. These body awareness skills are then carried with the diver out of the water as a greater understanding of the body and how it moves is achieved.
#8 Better Nutrition
It is a bit of a cliche, but the stereotype (at least in the UK) for Scuba divers is someone a little overweight who enjoys fast food and beer, whilst freedivers are viewed as ascetic vegetarian hippies.
Whilst neither stereotype is accurate, when you get into freediving, you become much more aware of the food you eat and how it impacts not only your freediving but your general health.
If you freedive after a heavy, greasy meal, the meal usually comes back to haunt you with nasty indigestion. Other foods such as dairy products can cause increased sinus mucous, and if you binge on chocolate and caffeinated drinks then your heart will race so fast you can’t relax properly.
Competitive freedivers spend a huge amount of time working out exactly what they can and can’t eat, and when is the best time to eat before a dive. Due to the anaerobic respiration that freedivers do, which releases free radicals into the body, freedivers also learn to load their diet with anti-oxidants. These substances, found in fresh fruit and vegetables, and in certain supplements, help the body recover quickly and work optimally.
If freedivers are overweight when they start freediving, then they usually begin to lose weight, as they change their diet for the better to make their freediving more effective and enjoyable.
#9 Improved Scuba Diving
If you’re a Scuba diver then you probably aren’t interested in freediving, thinking that you would prefer to breathe rather than hold your breath. That’s a valid decision, however when you learn to freedive, your experiences on Scuba will improve.
Learning to freedive will improve your confidence in the water, meaning that Scuba diving is more relaxed. You’ll learn to control your breathing, meaning that you use less air and can dive for longer. Learning better body awareness and hydrodynamics enables you to move more efficiently through the water.
Learning to freedive also improves buoyancy so you’ll learn to dive with less weight on. And the specialist equalisation techniques you learn will help you equalise quickly and effectively. Learning to freedive improves your safety as a Scuba Diver and your enjoyment of the sport.
#10 Better Focus and Concentration
There’s nothing quite like diving to 100 foot on one breath to focus the mind and improve your concentration. Freediving is often thought of as ‘extreme meditation’ as it requires laser sharp focus on the task in hand. All extraneous thoughts have to be put aside for the duration of the dive.
This often makes a freedive feel much longer than it actually is. The freediver’s perception of time changes as their awareness increases. A dive may only be a minute long, but the experience is of a dive of maybe twice that length.
Everything matters on a freedive. What the body is doing at each moment, how the equalisation is working, if there are diaphragm contractions. Freediving improves the mind by training it to focus exclusively on the present moment. There is no past, no future, just the present moment of the dive.
Freediving training, whether in open water, the pool, or on dry land, also helps hone focus. Freediving training, particularly if you want to compete, is hard work. It can put a huge strain on the body and it takes a determined person with intense concentration to put the work in to achieve the results that they want.
Whether you’re training to break a record, or freediving recreationally on a shallow reef, freediving demands a very particular concentration of the mind and this focus can be applied to all areas of your life.
Want to learn to freedive with the best? Learn to freedive with Go Freediving
Go Freediving is the longest established, most experienced and friendliest freediving course provider in the UK, led by world class freediving instructor trainer Emma Farrell, and her team of personally trained instructors. No other course provider has such a good instructor to student ratio, safety record and personal touch.
Whether you’re a beginner dipping your toes into the world of freediving, a seasoned pro looking to turn professional, or simply a freediver of any level who wants the best freediving holiday in the world, we’re here for you!
Also check out our online guide, The Beginners Guide to Freediving by clicking here!
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