Each diver has his or her own personal reasons for diving but all of them share one common reason - the pleasure of experiencing the underwater world - an unfamiliar and exciting environment full of new discoveries and new encounters.
But is scuba diving actually good for you? You bet it is! Scuba diving is an excellent way to improve physical and emotional health. Not only that, but you will also learn new skills and experiences, make friends and expand your environmental awareness.
Don't believe that diving is good for your health? Then let's take a closer look at some of the evidence ...
Scuba divers are taught to always breathe slowly and deeply during a dive. This is so that the air in your tank will last longer and means more time can be spent underwater but more importantly, deep steady breathing promotes a calm attitude and reduces the risk of a lung-expansion injury. However, this deep slow breathing has other benefits too; it increases lung capacity, strengthens the respiratory system and drains mucous. This in turn helps with the prevention of lung diseases and can actually improve existing ones such as asthma.
The calm, relaxed state produced through deep, slow breathing and through focusing on your underwater environment, reduces stress and balances the nervous system. A relaxed, calm state of mind has been proven to promote a positive attitude and prevent depression.
Deep breathing also means increased oxygen intake and this has numerous benefits too. According to world-renowned doctor and naturopath Paul Pitchford, of all nutrients, oxygen is the most essential and necessary for all normal physiological functions. Increased oxygen levels in the body raises energy levels, stimulates circulation, benefits heart and lung function and improves mental capacities. When there is sufficient oxygen in the body the need for intoxicants and stimulants diminishes.
Most divers enjoy visiting other countries to experience scuba diving there, or you may want to make diving part of your family holiday. The likelihood then is you'll be spending time in a warm climate and soaking up the sunshine! Many studies have revealed that sunlight has important health benefits and aids in preventing ailments such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD), nutritional deficiencies and depression.
One of the most important benefits of sunlight is that it supplies the body with Vitamin D. As sunlight penetrates the skin a substance known as ergosterol, located beneath the skin, is converted into vitamin D hormones. This vitamin promotes the absorption of calcium in the gut and is also responsible for the transference of calcium within the cells. This provides strength to the bones and increases endorphin production in the brain which contributes to a healthy nervous system. Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune system health. Another significant benefit of sunlight is that it helps kill off bacteria and viruses therefore preventing infections.
Diving in another country brings other benefits too. They say that travel is the best form of education and most people relish in the experience of visiting new places, experiencing a different culture, and all the new sights and smells and tastes that go with it. Travelling and holidaying in general, means simply taking a break from work and the usual strains of life which reduces stress. Dive travel abroad also means you are likely to meet fun people from all over the world with whom you have a common interest. Have you ever noticed how people tend to be happier and friendlier in a warm climate?
Scuba diving on a regular basis steadily improves and maintains your general fitness and stamina levels. Why? Well first of all exercising in water is very effective due to the natural resistance water has against our bodies. Using your legs to fin at depth is great exercise and the sensation of being weightless makes it feel almost effortless. It has been scientifically substantiated that any form of exercise improves cardio-vascular performance and that translates into a reduced risk of heart attacks, strokes, circulatory problems and ailments in general.
Muscle tone and strength are also improved. This is due again to your movement through water but also the physical effort of carrying equipment such as your weight belt and diving gear. Increased muscle tone helps in relieving tension and improves ailments such as backache because, by strengthening the back muscles, pressure is reduced in the spine.
Physical activity makes you thirsty, and every good diver knows the importance of keeping hydrated. Water is one of the most essential elements needed to sustain life. All the different systems of the body are dependent upon water in order to function properly. Water takes nutrients to the cells and carries away from them wastes and toxins. Scientists and doctors such as Dr. F. Batmanghelidj have shown that drinking water can help improve minor ailments and also prevent the onset of more serious major diseases. It has also been well-known for a long time that drinking sufficient water can help slow the ageing process.
The emotional benefits of diving are many too. It is a well-known fact that watching fish in an aquarium has a relaxing affect on the mind. Compare that to actually being in that underwater environment and those calming effects are intensified. This is one of the reasons divers keep going back for more, they find it a great way to unwind, relax and forget about all the stresses of daily modern life.
Weightlessness has other benefits too. Flotation therapy was invented in 1954 when Dr. John C. Lilly, an American neuro-physiologist and psychoanalyst developed the flotation tank. He was also well known for his research into the relationship between dolphins and human beings. Flotation therapy is essentially a way of placing the body into a state of total relaxation. Floating weightless in a quiet atmosphere breaks down stress responses and allows the mind and body to rejuvenate themselves.
There are close similarities between the soothing effects of the buoyancy of water and the Eastern techniques of meditation. Indeed some divers say that their time spent underwater captivated by the sights of fascinating marine life with the only noise being the sound of their own breathing, is in itself like a form of meditation for them.
The pure pleasure, wonder and awe of interacting with and being up close to amazing marine creatures produces a feeling of increased well-being. This feeling is heightened when we have an encounter with a species we feel a certain attraction to, or particular respect for, such as sharks or sea turtles. This produces within our nervous systems similar positive feelings as when we lavish affection on our cherished pets.
And what about the effects of watching the different rainbow colours of reef fish? It has been proven that colour has an effect on humans too. When we are exposed to a particular colour it has a profound affect on our moods and emotions. It has been found that looking at bright intense colours, like those of fish, generally has an uplifting effect. It has also been found that exposure to blue light has a calming, soothing effect and normalises high blood pressure. The colour red on the light spectrum is filtered out by water within a few metres of depth producing a calming, mainly blue colour in the underwater environment.
When you dive, you meet other like-minded people who often become good friends as you all share that common interest. It's easy to make friends among divers as you will find a sense of community among them. It's an exhilarating feeling to surface from a dive full of wonderful memories of your experience and then to be able to talk about and share them with good companions who are just as excited as you are! There is always a lot of smiling and laughter going on aboard a dive boat or liveaboard.
Scuba diving means you need to learn to be responsible for both yourself and your buddy and to look after your own safety. You will learn to stay calm at all times and that can help you during stressful situations in your every day life. In the beginning, learning to dive requires courage too but once you're more experienced, you'll find diving physically and mentally relaxing.
There is nothing better than the joy of finding yourself on the way to a dive site, full of anticipation for what you're about to experience under the water, with smiling faces all around you!
Scuba diving can be exhilarating, awe-inspiring, relaxing, calming, rejuvenating, fun and above all good for you! Your time spent underwater can be so fascinating that you become absorbed by the world around you, you relax and your worries just melt away. Diving, done right, really can be good for you!