What the Mature Diver needs to know about Diving Fitness
Over a million people go scuba diving each year. And not surprising a good number of them are older adults or “baby boomers”. Dive instructors are also noticing that the average “new” student is in his 50’s; is overweight and chain smokes. Not the picture of suntanned muscled hunk, most of us imagines when we think of scuba diving.
But do you have to be fit to scuba dive?All of the major diving associations strongly suggest that scuba divers maintain a general state of fitness. But just why is fitness important for mature scuba divers?
Scuba Fitness Matters #1– Being in overall good health is central. Although the World Recreational Scuba Training Council has relaxed some health standards, especially for diabetics, asthmatics, in general you should be in good health. Naturally people with severe health issues such as blackouts, lung disease or who have a history of heart attacks or strokes should never dive.
Scuba Fitness Matters #2– Living a healthy lifestyle makes for better dives. Divers who drink or smoke can still dive but they are strongly encouraged to give up both if they plan on diving frequently. The simple fact is that both smoking and alcohol change how the chemistry of the body and changes how your body uses reacts to diving. This can quickly lead to problems once you are underwater. However, if you just can’t seem to quit smoking or just can’t give up that nightly cocktail, you should abstain for at least 12 hours before your next dive.
Scuba Fitness Matters #3– Being strong is a good thing for the mature diver. Okay everyone knows you are weightless in water and effortlessly swimming in the deep blue is part of the appeal of diving. But don’t forget about the part when you are fully geared up and have to waddle from the dive boat to the water or how about getting from the water back into the boat? Or how about moving from the boat to dock or base camp?
Air tanks can weight 21 lbs by themselves, along with 30 lb weight belts, wetsuits, boots, regulators, mask, etc. Diving gear can easily go over 50-60 pounds. Granted you won’t have to lug gear all by yourself but heaving heavy gear around is a quick way for an out of condition diver to get fatigued early in the day.
Scuba Fitness Matters #4– Endurance is also important. Wetsuits are fairly tight fitting and require a certain amount of muscle strength and aerobic conditioning to get them on. Divers in poor condition can easily waste lots of time struggling with their suits, and putting gear on or off. Frequently, they will have to rest after wrestling with their personal neoprene body demons.
But a diver who works out regularly is not as prone to these problems. Not to mention good cardio conditioning allows a diver to control their breathing, which let’s them use less air, so they are able to enjoy longer dives.
So now that you know why fitness is so vital for mature diving pleasure, I hope you will start a general fitness program before your next diving adventure... so that you can dive longer and enjoy it more.
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Worldwide standards for fitness vary greatly. In the UK you need a HSE medical to allow you to earn any money from diving, whether it is recreational i.e. instructing or commercially i.e. media/shellfish diving etc.
Within the recreational world instructors should set the standard to students, so many smoke and do little or no exercise. Show your students you are serious about fitness, keep fit yourself.