Want to hold your breath for a long time? Jump in the pool!

Person holding their breath underwater

Want to hold your breath for a long time? Jump in the pool!

Dr. Anthony Warren
| 2017-08-21 | 2 min read

Your breath holding capability is a good indicator of your overall wellness. In general, the longer you can hold your breath, the healthier, fitter and relaxed you are. So if you can’t easily hold your breath after exhaling fully for more than thirty seconds, you could benefit from some breath training exercises to increase it to around a minute. The benefits can be considerable. Longer breathing holding times have been shown to alleviate snoring and sleep apnea, the control of asthma attacks, and even withdrawal from nicotine addiction.

Interestingly, humans can hold their breath for twice as long underwater as they can on land. The reason is that mammals, including us, have developed a reflex to conserve oxygen while underwater. The so-called ‘diving reflex’ constricts blood vessels in certain parts of the body such as the limbs while the two organs that demand a constant supply of oxygen, the brain and heart, remain well supplied . At the same time, the heart slows down, further conserving oxygen. The decrease of pulse rate of an untrained diver is about 10 to 30 percent whereas the decrease in a very fit professional diver can be 50 per cent or more. Pearl divers can stay under water for about seven minutes, enough to sustain their livelihood. However, this is much less than the world record held by Tom Sietas which clocks in at 22 minutes and 22 seconds! Holding your breath for such a long time is extremely dangerous, so do not attempt it.

Check out this short video.

References

  1. Intermittent Hypoxia and Human Diseases

  2. Predictors of smoking relapse among self-quitters: a report from the Normative Aging Study

  3. Cardiovascular responses to face immersion (the diving reflex) in human beings after alcohol consumption