Diving Healthy As We Age By Linda Gettmann


All of us are aging every minute and our bodies change in ways that can limit our ability to pursue the activities and adventures we love. Luckily for us "boomers", medical knowledge and understanding of age-related changes is advancing at a rapid rate so we can overcome or at least cope with most of them. Here are some tips for those over-40 scuba nuts like me who just can't get enough of that bottled air . . .

1. Move Around It's never too late to start an exercise and fitness program. The benefits will be noticeable in just a few weeks, slowing the effects of aging and too much sitting at the table or on the couch. Plan aerobic exercise and some mild strength training with light weights to maintain a vigorous lifestyle and avoid those aches and pains come that long awaited dive vacation.

2. Drink Water The American Council of Sports Medicine recommends 8-10 ounces of fluid replacement every 15 minutes when exercising in a warm climate. You can't rely on feeling thirsty to tell you when you're dehydrated. By then it's already too late. Fluids lost through sweating and activity need to be replaced for your body to maintain its balance. Dehydration is thought to be the most common ailment affecting divers, and the one that's easiest to remedy. If water isn't enough, drink sports drinks that are formulated to aid the body's absorption of fluids. Remember 8 glasses a day, more if you're in a tropical climate and exercising.

3. Maintain Energy Level Older divers can benefit from a lower fat, higher carbohydrate diet in comparison to younger divers. As we age, muscles lose their ability to use fat and need to rely on carbohydrates for energy during exercise. Don't overdo it so you're gaining weight, but eat a balanced diet while vacationing and diving.

4. Stay Cool Maintaining a good level of fitness aids in the older body's ability to cool itself and warm itself when we're chilled. The blood flow for cooling is the same as for keeping us warm. Over the course of a week's dive vacation, older divers need to be smart and add layers of thermal protection as even the warmest of tropical oceans is sapping body heat. Topside in equatorial climates, skin blood flow is increased to cool us by maintenance of a good circulatory system that comes with fitness.

5. Save Your Back Prevent back strain and injuries by learning and using proper weight lifting techniques. Increase your flexibility in the lower back muscles, gluts, hamstrings, and hip flexors by regular exercise to these areas. Use your head, not your back. If you are prone to back strain, let those young whippersnappers on the dive boat bring you your gear at the back platform--that's part of their service.

6. Dive Nitrox Using nitrox, an air mixture with increased oxygen content, can lower your risk of DCS. Diving nitrox on air tables or computer models increases your safety margin--an important element in keeping older divers out of the chamber. It makes you feel better after repetitive dives, and most divers report no headaches.

7. Slow Down Hey, what have you got to prove? Admit it, nothing to no one on that dive boat. It isn't a competition to see who can go the deepest and stay down the longest--contrary to what some youngsters still think. We know better, we're older, right? And smarter too, one of the benefits of age is wisdom. Learn from your youthful mistakes and dive comfortably and safely. We understand just how fast time goes by, so revel in the beauty and solitude of the underwater environment. Enjoy those precious minutes that gravity isn't pulling us down. Dive safe, sane, and satisfied.