In swimming, you probably already know that learning how to breathe in the water will help you swim better. However in competition, have you ever wondered how swimmers can dive from one side to the other?
Those things have ways and explanations of science. So in this article, we will find out how to help you hold your breath for a long time in the water.
How long can humans dive without getting out of the water? How long can humans hold their breath? When humanity is pushing back the last two limits, space and ocean, it is necessary to find out how we can survive in an environment without air.
In a vacuum, it is very easy to lose consciousness. In 1965, a broken space suit caused an employee at Nasa’s Johnson Space Center to be pushed into a vacuum for a while in the laboratory. He passed out for about 15 seconds. Unlike most people thought, he did not explode even though at such a low-pressure environment the fluids in the body would evaporate at normal body temperature. The last thing he can remember before waking up is saliva boiling and steaming on the tip of his tongue.
Freelance divers, that is, diving without breathing apparatus, do better than that. Usually, they can dive underwater for three minutes or longer. The deepest diving diver, Herbert Nitch, dives to a depth of 214 meters aboard a specially designed submarine. He stayed underwater for about four and a half minutes. The divers are free to use a physical reaction called the diving reflex. This process slows down the heart rate as the body goes deep underwater. Even when we face cold water we trigger this reaction.
Even though these divers reach unbelievable depths, humans can hold their breath for longer in less extreme environments. Dive into a London swimming pool, Danish diver Stig Severinsen held his breath for 22 minutes in 2012 and set a world record that no one has ever broken. How can they do when the average person can only hold their breath for more than a minute? It’s all about preparation, training, and physiology.
Before setting this record, Severinsen spent 20 minutes breathing heavily with only oxygen. This keeps his body filled with oxygen and expels the CO2 from his lungs out. Both of these are important for long holding breath. Everyone knows that a lack of oxygen leads to death, while the accumulation of CO2 is equally dangerous. If the body cannot release this excess gas in the body, its accumulation in the blood turns the blood into acid. The muscles contract and the body becomes disoriented while the heart beats fast. In the end, it will lead to death.
Trained divers and champions of breathlessness have adapted the body to hold their breath for long. A study of Brazilian fishermen found that divers who caught fish had much larger lungs than their counterparts who only fished on the water. Famous pearl divers in South Korea and Japan were found to have 10% more red blood cells in their blood during diving.
The limits of holding your breath are determined by how well your body can withstand the lack of oxygen and the accumulation of CO2. Both of these factors are governed by the body’s metabolic rate. A diver consumes more oxygen and emits more CO2 than a person is an immobile underwater. Freelance divers often talk about the need to train the mind in diving meditation to help lower the heart rate and leave the mind empty for the brain to deeply relax.
There are other ways to suppress your metabolism as well. When little Michelle Funk in America fell into a cold stream in 1986, she survived about 66 minutes underwater. This is because the body deeply hypothermia, which slows down metabolism almost to zero.
The champion that has no competition for regular breathlessness are marine mammals such as whales and seals. They can dive underwater for up to an hour at a time, before reaching the surface. Besides being able to tolerate high CO2 accumulation by their bodies, the muscles of these organisms are rich in myoglobin, a protein that helps retain oxygen and expel them for use during diving. Myoglobin is the substance that gives meat its red color. In whales, they have such a high concentration that the whale has black flesh.
Unfortunately, even the best exercise doesn’t help us learn to adapt to the whale’s body. So what other options are there for a life without air?
We can go against the rule a little bit by breathing fluids instead of breathing air. If not a liquid with only pure oxygen, at -200 degrees Celsius, it will turn our body into a popsicle from the inside out and the lungs will break when we try to breathe. Instead, we breathe with a liquid rich in dissolved oxygen. A substance called PFC can dissolve a high concentration of oxygen and CO2. PFCs can also become liquids at the right temperature.
Fluid breathing can sound like it does in a science fiction movie. However, it was once depicted in the famous director James Cameron’s movie The Abyss in 1989. However, it has the basis of research.
PFC is colorless, odorless and is not as toxic as air and can help divers withstand high pressure when exiting a submarine in distress. Experiments in the 1960s showed that cats and mice immersed in liquid PFCs were able to survive for days by breathing this oxygen-rich liquid.
Since this liquid contains much more oxygen than an equivalent amount of air, we could theoretically hold our breath for much longer with just a full lung of PFCs. However, the mammalian lung’s fragile structure cannot bear the force needed to push four liters of fluid in and out of the body. This makes liquid breathing not considered an alternative to breathing air, although liquid breathing has been used in the care of premature infants whose lungs are not yet able to breathe on their own.
Without new technology, the efforts to set new records sadly end. When Mevoli emerged from the water after diving for three and a half minutes and set a record for diving without a breathing apparatus at a depth of 72 meters, he passed out shortly after. Although he received immediate treatment, he passed away. His death is a serious reminder that life at the limits is still fraught with dangers.