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It has been a number of months since I last went scuba diving - short enough that I can still remember everything, but long enough for any diving specific exercise related things to have worn off.

If I dive for several days in a row, I find that my air consumption improves over the course of the dives. I'm sure that part of that is familiarity and remembering technique, but I have a hunch that some of it is more fitness and muscle related.

Are there any exercises / practices I can do in the week or so before I go diving, to help prepare my body to make my air last longer?

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

There are three things you should look at here, lung capacity, oxygen carrying capacity and bradycardia reflex.

Lung Capacity

When I was younger I suffered from asthma, and had a series of lung exercises to improve lung capacity. I can't remember them all now so I checked various sites. This one has some excellent tips, including:

  • Rib stretch
  • Abdominal breathing
  • Practicing slow breathing while exercising hard

Oxygen Capacity or VO2max

This is all down to hard exercise. The way trainers describe it is "performing very hard exercise for 5 minutes, then complete recovery, followed by another hard exercise, and repeating 3 times in a single workout." Complete recovery includes rehydration, expelling lactic acid, nutrition, and compression or massage! Doing this 3 or 4 times a week will really help to build VO2max.


This will be second nature to you as a diver, but when exercising, having a little water splashed on your face will help your body automatically prepare for going underwater - do this when exercising hard.

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I think your answer is especially well suited to breath hold diving. I think in scuba diving larger lung capacity is not beneficial to lower air consumption. The larger the lungs the more air you breath in with each breath and thus the less breathes you can get out of a cylinder. – AquaAlex Jan 26 at 11:02
I'd defer to you on that, as it is obvious you have much more experience with Scuba than I, however as part of my training I did find that larger lung capacity also meant I did not need to take so many breaths. So that isn't necessarily an issue. – Rory Alsop Jan 26 at 11:05
I think lung capacity combined with other factors can have beneficial effects for scuba divers as well. But since we continuously breath in and out and not hold our breath, this element is less "usefull". But does not mean it is not good to do especially in connection with improving the VO2 Max. – AquaAlex Jan 26 at 12:55

As an assistant instructor, I suspect it's your relaxation rate. New divers, and those who haven't been diving for a while, tend to get more excited when diving, and may also try to see the whole ocean. Try slowing down and taking a closer look at what's around you. Ironically, you'll usually see more when going slow because you'll notice the small things as well.

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Personally I would say regular exercise routine with swimming and cardio will help improve your air consumption.

But the best exercise for scuba diving is more scuba diving. The more you dive, the more comfortable you will be and the more efficient your movements become underwater the lower your breathing rate will become.

practice not using your arms/hands underwater, practice more efficient finning techniques, make sure you are not over or under weighted, remember to check weight when you change gear, remember diving is not a race so swim slowly, breath deeply and slowly

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