Divers are often lauded for their physical prowess and mental fortitude. They are seen as a tough breed, capable of withstanding the rigors of diving – both mentally and physically. However, another side to divers is often overlooked – their health.
While diving can be an extremely healthy activity, it can also take its toll on the body. Divers are susceptible to various health problems, both short and long-term.
We will look at some of the more common health problems that divers face and some steps that you can take to mitigate them.
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Diving and General Physical Health
Diver health is often overlooked, but it is essential to consider all aspects – from physical to mental health. Divers are at an increased risk for certain injuries and illnesses due to the nature of their sport. It is important to be aware of these risks and take steps to minimize them.
Physical health is of particular importance for divers since their bodies must be able to handle the pressure that comes with being underwater.
This includes maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep and exercise, and treating existing injuries or health conditions.
This is what our expert Daniele Abela, a seasoned spearfisherman from New England, had to say, “Prevention of any sort of dive health-related issue goes a long way, especially when you’re taking these trips where you spend a lot of money taking your own vacation time to take these awesome trips. And there’s nothing worse than having a trip ruined for some kind of little issue that turned into a bigger issue.”
Divers also need to focus on mental health, as staying calm and focused can help them avoid accidents and keep themselves safe while diving.
This may involve practicing mindfulness techniques or using mental imagery to prepare for dives and utilizing positive self-talk, and maintaining healthy stress levels both before and after dives.
Overall, divers should be aware of the many factors that can impact their health and work to keep themselves safe and enjoy this exciting and rewarding sport fully.
With the right mindset and preparation, any diver can thrive and flourish in their underwater adventures!
Effects of Diving on the Body
The ocean is a vast and powerful force, with the power to both awe and terrify. But as a diver, you are intimately connected to this mysterious realm, traversing its depths and experiencing firsthand the incredible beauty of its hidden wonders.
Yet beneath the surface lies another world that can take a toll on your body if you’re not careful. The water pressure, the cold temperature, and the constant movement can all lead to fatigue, dehydration, and other health problems.
That’s why it’s important to be aware of the potential risks of diving and take steps to stay healthy while you’re underwater. Here are some overlooked aspects of diver health that you should keep in mind:
Nutrition and Hydration
Your body needs food and water to function properly, especially while diving. Make sure you’re eating a balanced diet rich in nutrients that will help boost your energy levels and keep you healthy under the weight of the water.
But avoid eating mid-dive as it will not work well with your digestive system. And be sure to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after your dive to stay hydrated.
Daniele Abela said, “I do think liquid like Gatorade is really good for getting your energy back. But I think that eating food, first of all, if you’re eating food mid-dive, it’s going to mess up your digest because as you go upside down, that food’s not going to get into your intestine just kind of sitting within your stomach. So, you’re not digesting in the first place.”
It’s easy to get out of exercising when you’re not on land. Still, regular physical activity is vital for maintaining strength and stamina above and below the surface.
Try incorporating simple exercises like yoga or stretching into your diving routine, or take up swimming or surfing as a way to get in some exercise while you’re enjoying the ocean.
It’s not just what you wear on your body that can impact your health while diving and what you have on your equipment.
Check your air supply, ensure that your dive suit is properly fitted to avoid chafing or injury, and get your gear regularly serviced to avoid any malfunctions.
Treating Existing Injuries
If you’re already suffering from an injury or illness, take the necessary steps to treat it before diving. Follow your doctor’s recommendations and stick to any medications or other treatments that have been prescribed.
And if you’re recovering from a recent surgery or otherwise dealing with physical limitations, consult your doctor before getting back into the water.
Rest and Recovery
After a long day of diving, your body needs time to recover. Get plenty of sleep and allow yourself some time to relax both mentally and physically.
Taking a hot bath or shower can help soothe tired muscles, and spending time in nature can help reduce stress levels.
Common Health Conditions That Affect Divers
There are a few health conditions that disproportionately affect divers. While some of these conditions are well known, others often go overlooked.
Here are a few common health conditions that can impact divers:
Divers are at an increased risk for deafness due to the loud noise created by diving equipment. This noise can damage the delicate hairs in the inner ear, resulting in hearing loss.
In addition, the high-pressure underwater can also cause problems with hearing.
Sinus infections are common among divers due to the changes in pressure that occur underwater. These pressure changes can cause the sinuses to become blocked, leading to an infection.
Daniele Abela said, “Most divers tend to deal with sinuses and having your U station tubes and your ear problems because they’re blocked from the inside.”
Ear barotrauma is another condition caused by the changes in pressure during a dive. This condition occurs when the middle and outer ear pressure is not equalized, resulting in pain and discomfort.
Decompression sickness, also known as “the bends,” is a condition that can occur when a diver comes up too quickly from a dive.
This sudden change in pressure can cause nitrogen bubbles to form in the bloodstream, leading to a range of symptoms, including joint pain, fatigue, dizziness, and more.
Lung squeezes, also known as pulmonary barotrauma of descent, refer to a condition where air bubbles form in the bloodstream and travel to the lungs.
This can cause a range of symptoms, including shortness of breath, chest pain, vomiting blood, and more.
Daniele Abele said, “I could literally feel something in my lung, and I felt like I was short of breath and struggling for air.”
Proper Nutrition for Divers
Divers need to be adequately fueled to maintain their health and safety underwater. Just as a car needs the right type of gasoline to run smoothly, divers need to eat the right foods to perform at their best.
Certain foods can help improve a diver’s health and safety underwater. For example, eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables provides the body with essential vitamins and minerals that help boost energy levels, reduce stress, and regulate blood pressure.
Staying hydrated during a dive can make all the difference in endurance and focus.
Drinking plenty of water throughout the day can also help ward off dehydration, a common problem among divers who spend extended periods in cold, salty waters.
“A liquid inside is a lot easier to pass into your gut where it actually gets absorbed,” Daniele said, “Italy is they have like these little like electrolyte or like little salt packets essentially that it’s a powder and they mix it in with their water.”
If divers want to stay healthy, strong and focused while diving, they need to take their nutrition and overall wellness seriously.
With proper fueling, hydration, rest, and awareness of their bodies, they can enjoy all the benefits of exploring the ocean depths without worrying about their health and safety.
Exercise and Stretching Routines for Divers
Divers are often pursuing the perfect wave or the most beautiful coral reef. But what many divers overlook is their health and fitness.
The sport of diving requires a high level of physical fitness, and without proper training, divers can quickly become injured.
“Any little thing that you can do, any little piece of extra medicine or little equipment or warming up will do. Ultimately it might seem like a hassle at first, but it’s a small thing that will make a huge difference in having a successful dive,” Daniele Abela said.
That’s why divers need to maintain a regular exercise and stretching routine. Here are some of the exercises and stretches that divers can do to stay healthy and fit:
Swimming is a great low-impact workout that can help build strength and endurance while also improving flexibility.
Simple bodyweight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, and squats are perfect for divers, as they require minimal equipment and can be done almost anywhere.
Pilates is a great way to improve core strength, which is essential for divers. Stronger abdominal and back muscles will help protect the spine while diving.
Yoga helps improve flexibility and can also be used as a form of active recovery after a strenuous dive.
Starting with Short Dives
If you want to dive but are worried about your fitness level, it’s best to start with short and shallow dives. This will allow you to build up your endurance and confidence before taking on more challenging dives.
“My first dive will be five feet; my next dive will be 10 feet, then maybe 15 feet, then 20 feet,” Daniele Abela said.
Mental Health and Stress Management Techniques for Divers
Divers are often seen as calm and collected individuals, but that doesn’t mean they don’t experience the same mental health challenges as everyone else.
Diving can be a very stressful activity, both mentally and physically. Divers need to be aware of the signs of stress and anxiety and know how to manage these feelings so that they don’t interfere with their diving performance.
Some common stressors for divers include:
- Performing under pressure, whether in competition or while diving solo, “I was diving a little longer than I should have. I was more stressed out, and I was a little bit more frantic,” Daniele Abela Said.
- Adjusting to new equipment or unfamiliar dive sites
- Concerns about safety and environmental impacts of diving
To manage stress and anxiety effectively, divers can try a variety of techniques, including:
- Practicing deep breathing exercises to help reduce tension and promote relaxation
- Engaging in regular physical activity to boost mood and manage stress hormones
- Seeking out supportive communities or mentorship programs that can offer guidance and help build confidence
- Utilizing mindfulness practices, such as meditation or yoga, to help increase focus and awareness
How to Stay Safe in Water
Divers are often injury-prone due to the high-pressure environment they work in. However, some overlooked aspects of diver health can help keep them safe. For example,
Maintaining Proper Hydration
Divers must maintain proper hydration levels before and during a dive. Dehydration can lead to several problems, including muscle cramps, headaches, and dizziness.
Wearing the Right Gear
Divers must also make sure they are wearing the proper gear for their dive. This includes a wet suit or dry suit, gloves, mask, and fins.
Avoiding Alcohol and Cigarettes
Alcohol and cigarettes can negatively affect a diver’s health. Alcohol can cause dehydration and impair a diver’s judgment. Cigarettes can cause a build-up of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream, which can be deadly at depth.
Daniele Abela says, “Don’t drink any alcohol like you shouldn’t get drunk before you dive.”
Using the Right Conditioner and Body Wash
Conditioner and body wash can also help keep a diver’s skin healthy in the harsh underwater environment. Using products that contain moisturizing ingredients, such as shea butter or jojoba oil, can help protect against dry skin and irritated skin.
“I started buying Sicilian conditioner shampoo, which is the lowest quality stuff that you can buy. and I just remember having in my, in areas of friction, so behind my knees and my armpits, my skin would just get so red and start peeling away just because it was essentially just getting like, it was like rug burn essentially from the wetsuit and then the mix of those shampoos.”
Daniele Abela continued, “Their pH is lower than your skin, and it’s going to ultimately sort of corrode your skin. So, use a good conditioner.”
Getting Enough Rest and Taking Breaks
Finally, divers need to get enough rest before and during their dives. This can help them avoid fatigue, which can lead to some accidents or injuries. By following these tips, divers can stay safe and healthy as they explore the underwater world.
Divers’ health is essential for a safe and fun diving experience. When divers take the time to focus on their overall health and wellbeing, they can minimize their risk of injury and enjoy a safe and successful dive.
Whether staying hydrated, wearing the right gear, or getting enough rest and taking breaks, there are many overlooked aspects of diver health essential for a safe and enjoyable dive. So, if you’re heading out on your next underwater adventure, keep these tips in mind!
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