Diving Health & Fitness by Linda Gettmann

As people of all ages and athletic abilities pursue recreational diving, they need to take the time to consider the fitness level required for scuba. Although the relatively weightless underwater environment makes diving appear almost effortless, scuba diving does require a measure of strength and stamina. We need a certain level of fitness to ensure our best performance and enjoyment of diving.

If you are considering learning to dive, keep in mind that not all your diving will be the same. Water and weather conditions vary from dive to dive and even from the beginning to the end of some dives. You may be required to maneuver through strong currents or perform a long surface swim. Divers need to be able to perform unexpected strenuous physical tasks. Also they should not have any health conditions or be taking any medications that may cause problems while diving.
Some medical conditions such as colds, flu, injury or pregnancy will temporarily restrict diving. If the Eustachian tubes or sinuses are swollen or blocked, adequate equalization of these air spaces will be impaired or impossible as you descend for a dive. Injuries to joints and muscles may not only reduce diving ability, but they also increase susceptibility to decompression illness. It is best to postpone diving until injuries are healed, illnesses gone; and it is recommended that pregnant women do not dive.

If you have questions about your fitness to dive, or if you need evaluation by a diving doctor, Divers Alert Network can provide you with a list of specialists in your area. Call DAN’s Dive Safety and Medical Information line (1-800-446-2671 ext. 2). If you have a history of heart or lung disease, blackouts, a history of nausea or vomiting, take prescription medication, have shortness of breath, trouble clearing your ears, or are generally not physically fit, you should definitely see a physician prior to beginning any diving or strenuous exercise activity. No upper age limit exists for participation in scuba diving provided a diver is healthy and fit and has no disqualifying medical conditions.

Discuss your diving plans with your physician and any other doctors who prescribe medications for you or if you take over the counter medication. Some cause drowsiness or fatigue which may increase the susceptibility of problems while diving. Read the warning labels and ask your doctor what effect pressure at depth might have on your medication. Be sure and test out any new drugs before diving to see if you have negative side effects.

Some individuals with a history of asthma are permitted to dive-— after a careful evaluation by their physicians. Diabetes and many other medical conditions must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis with an appropriate medical specialist. Scuba diving is an activity that anyone with good health and fitness can enjoy for a lifetime. To get the most out of your diving, practice a good health maintenance program including:
1. See your physician for regular checkups
2. Participate in a regular exercise program
3. Be rested and well-nourished and hydrated before diving
4. Use proper exposure protection by wearing wetsuits or other thermal equipment
5. Plan your dive to avoid overexertion

Don’t hide or downplay any medical condition or health problem. It’s better to have an open and frank discussion before a problem arises than to wonder if the injury could have been prevented. Use common sense when participating in any vigorous sport. Scuba diving is fun, safe, and an exciting way to explore a whole new world under the sea.