Do you know for how long you can go without breathing before it gets uncomfortable? Did you ever want to find out? Whenever children play in the pool, it's never long after that a "who can hold their breath the longest?" contest occurs. For some people holding their breath underwater isn't merely recreational but an intense sport. Most people can comfortably stop breathing before gasping for air.


Just how long can a freediver hold their breath? Some experienced freedivers can swim without breathing for more than ten minutes without the aid of a snorkel or scuba gear. We must clarify that freediving is a sport with different specialties, so there is no absolute breath-holding champion. This means the time of breath-holding depends on the specialty itself.


The practice freediving is called static apnea. Apnea is a short-term breathing stoppage, and a technique that athletes must master to remain underwater for as long as possible without swimming up to the surface for air. The longest record of static apnea is 11 minutes 54 seconds, with Branko Petrovic of Serbia as the current titleholder.


How Deep Can You Freedive?

We now know that some experienced freedivers can swim without drawing breath into their lungs for more than ten minutes, but the question remains how deep you can freedive before it's unsafe? The deeper you dive, the greater the risks involved due to the increase of physical exertion. The deeper you swim in the sea, the faster you will use up your oxygen.


There is some discrepancy in defining the deepest freedive because there are different specialties with distinct rules.


Herbert Nitsch, from Australia, holds the current "No Limits" record after a recorded depth of 214 meters (702 feet). He has held records in all eight freediving disciplines.


Getting In Shape For Freediving

How long can freedivers hold their breath underwater? Much depends on their fitness levels and how much training they have had. Most healthy individuals can last for up to two minutes without taking a breath. However, a little practice can increase this amount of time. Aleix Segura, a freediver from Spain, held his breath underwater for an incredible 24 minutes 3 seconds.


While regular cardiovascular training has little effect on holding your breath, exercise, like biking or running, is crucial for freedivers. It's essential to swim deep underwater with as little physical strain as possible to save oxygen for the brain.


There is more to getting in shape for freediving than physical training; mental training is also essential. Much of the advancement in breath-holding is due to relaxation and meditation techniques. It's critical to find a state of relaxation before diving.


Relaxation can give you the confidence to know how to survive anoxia. Anoxia is when your body or brain loses all oxygen supply and is damaged by the lack of oxygen. This condition is known explicitly as hypoxic-anoxic injury.


You can discipline yourself to breath deeper using a technique known as "lung packing." Freedivers will draw in as much air as possible and hold it in their cheeks, before using the epiglottis to shut their throat. They will use their tongues as a rake to thrust air from their full cheeks into their lungs. Lung packing and other breathing techniques won't permanently stretch your lungs, but they relax the breathing muscles to increase your intake of more air.


How Holding Your Breath Affects Your Body And Brain

When you hold your breath for a significant period, CO2 builds up inside you. Loss of oxygen is not an issue as your body has lots of that in reserve for your brain, heart, and vital organs that would otherwise suffer oxygen damage. The more pressing issue is the buildup of carbon dioxide, as this acidifies the blood. The blood of experienced freedivers acidifies at a slower rate compared to ordinary people. Also, as their heart-rate slows down, their peripheral blood vessels restrict quicker when they stop breathing, diverting blood away from hands and feet to protect the brain and other vital organs. The lactic acid in the muscles prevents pain for freedivers.


Everyone has their limits; even the most experienced and dedicated freedivers have them. Nicholas Mevoli. a 32-year-old man from Brooklyn, tragically died on November 17th, 2013, attempting to reach a depth of 236 feet and return to the surface in a single breath without fins. Sadly, despite years of training he lost consciousness not long after surfacing and was later declared dead.


There is always the risk that swimming for too long without taking a breath can put you in danger, so you must follow the correct protocols and never go alone. Breath-holding, without air, decreases the heart rate faster than in the open air, reducing the need for oxygen and promoting carbon dioxide buildup. Much uncertainty remains as to whether competitive breath-holding has a long-term negative impact on the body.


Final Thoughts

Freediving is undoubtedly an excellent sport for individuals who like to challenge themselves. You can continually improve and try swim without breathing for longer, dive deeper, and become more confident in the water. The benefits of freediving to a person's health and wellbeing are undeniable; many divers enjoy the feeling of being weightless and being free in the water.


If you decide to try freediving, go with a companion and check to see how long you both can hold your breath. Keep a record of your times each day and see if your breath-holding improves with time and practice.


How long can freedivers hold their breath? We now know it all depends on the type of freediving they are doing. The different freediving types range from using fins, no fins, horizontal, vertical, etc. Whatever the level of competition, all freedivers exhibit tremendous power of the human spirit.


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