A question that many of us ponder as we gently glide across shallow reefs, breathing as if at rest, and feeling at peace with the world around us… “This is so slow, and relaxing… Why does everyone say you must be fit to dive?”.
It should go without question that; YES! fitness is a key element of safe diving in any capacity- But there are many reasons for this, and not all of them are well known.
First of all we encounter this notion during our basic course. First we must all complete swim tests and secondly we hear a number of times during the theory portion that its safer… But how and why?
Overall fitness is immeasurably vital to safe diving- We’ve all heard the stories of divers being swept away out to sea, nearly all of us have experienced a stiff current before and had the thought “What happens if I do get swept away?”.
The truth is, it can and does happen. Quite commonly infact! Fortunately cases of people being completely lost or harmed are EXTREMELY rare but do you think they would have stood a better chance of staying with the rest of their group if they were fitter?
The next danger of being unfit is an unseen one… It’s what happens within our own bodies. We hear a number of times during our dive education that being fit reduces our chances of decompression related injuries. What does that mean? In simple terms, a fitter person with good cardiovascular function, and lower body fat is at lesser risk of suffering pressure related injuries because they will absorb less, and off gas faster the nitrogen which causes Decompression sickness. A diver with poor circulation, respiratory function or higher levels of body fat will absorb more nitrogen, and off gas much more slowly resulting in a higher risk of DCS.
Finally, something to consider is if you are a larger, heavier diver are your buddies, or the people you’re diving with physically capable of helping, and if necessary evacuating you? it’s not hard to imagine the difficulties a small group of divers may face in trying to get a much larger, heavier diver onto any kind of boat.
This all sounds pretty grim… So what’s considered fit and healthy to dive? Well there’s no hard and fast rules or standards on this but it’s generally recommended to do at least 30 mins of light exercise 3 times weekly, and a good rule of thumb is that you should be capable of running at least 3km without too much difficulty! Overall then, no one says you HAVE to be that fit.. But hopefully we all see now- The fitter, the better