Top 5 Health Benefits of Freediving
Many people, especially those who know little about freediving, think it’s a dangerous, adrenaline-fuelled sport. Of course, everything brought to the limits has some risk, however, if done properly, freediving is not only incredibly safe but also beneficial to your physical and mental health. So, let’s look at the top 5 ways in which freediving can help to improve your well-being.
1. Helps to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
In many ways, freediving is similar to and overlaps with yogic practice. Mental strength, as well as awareness and control of what your body is doing, are key elements needed to become a skilled freediver. How does one achieve that? Various relaxation and breathing techniques are among the first things you learn on a freediving course. When you relax, your heart rate and oxygen consumption lower, allowing you to dive longer and making the dive safer, and more enjoyable.
The benefits of what you learn when freediving though go way beyond the water. A comparative study on psychological characteristics of free diving athletes found that free divers had reduced levels of stress, anxiety and negative affectivity when compared to non-athletes. The same study also showed that freediving boosts self-confidence, improves coping strategies, and increases the belief in the internal locus of control. This basically means that people who engage in the sport gain trust in their skills, learn to deal with difficult situations more efficiently, and believe that they have more control over the events in their own lives.
2. Strengthens Your Lungs
While an average person rarely takes a full breath in, freedivers do it on a regular basis. When you start in the sport, you practice different breathing techniques, including diaphragmatic, or “belly” breathing, which is a much more efficient way of oxygenating the body. Because we are not used to using the full capacity of our lungs, learning to inhale to the maximum can feel uncomfortable at first. However, the more you train, the more comfortable it becomes. Regular breathing exercises help to increase your lung volume and elasticity, as well as improve your core muscle stability. Furthermore, your body learns to use oxygen more efficiently, as it becomes fine-tuned to performing on oxygen limits.
3. Improves Your Fitness Level and Flexibility
Another thing you are taught on every freediving course is whole-body stretching. The more flexible and open your body is, the easier it will be to move through the water, equalize and avoid cramps. In addition to that, your instructor may help guide your physical training and recommend other activities that may be beneficial to you. Many freedivers practice yoga, apnea walking, or simply do gym work to further improve their muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. All in all, when you start freediving, fitness and flexibility usually follow, which in turn helps you lead a longer and healthier life.
4. Improves Joint Health
One of the major health benefits of freediving is a positive effect on joint health. Studies have shown that spending time in and underwater can relieve pressure on the joints and even increase their range of motion due to hydrostatic pressure counteracting the usual pressure the body encounters during high impact activities. The weightlessness of being submerged in the water helps to reduce swelling and inflammation, as well as allows those suffering from arthritis or injuries to relieve pain and exercise comfortably underwater.
5. Helps to Achieve Better Focus and Concentration
Similar to a form of meditation, freediving requires a laser-sharp focus. When diving, all your daily distractions and extraneous thoughts have to be put aside. The lack of sound and other sensory diversions underwater present a truly unique environment for clearing your headspace of any other worries. Through freediving, you learn to rein in your fear, leading to mental clarity and insight you couldn’t gain otherwise. That being said, even training on dry land, helps you hone focus. That special concentration of mind you learn through freediving can be applied to all areas of your life.