Free diving can increase the strength of your body, help develop muscles and increase endurance and vitality
As I look ahead to my journey towards a healthier life in my 70’s, I look back at where I had been all these years. I was never an active competitive sports person but since school days I had made sure I got to play football, badminton, hockey and even took part in cross country races.
It was the most enjoyable time of our lives. And yet it was frustrating as I was never a champion in athletics compared to a couple of my younger siblings who excelled in sports.
Nonetheless, I keep my motivation to a reasonable level with small victories in football or badminton. In our neighborhood, we had a badminton court where we also used to spin tops.
The reasonably large grass-patched area was where we flew kites, especially during school holidays. At one school holiday season in Form 1, we organised high jump sessions and it was at one of these jumps, I fell and dislocated my elbow!
Working life in Kuala Lumpur was a challenge to ensure we had enough exercise and sporting activities. For a time, the craze was squash, and the other was going to the gym, which I admit was boring.
I tried to take up golf but did not find it stimulating, even though I had become a golf club member, one of the company’s perks. Though I seldom took sick leave, an attack of gout made me understand that gout, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes are due to poor nutritional habits, lack of exercise and work-related stress.
I took up scuba diving when I was 50, and everyone said I was crazy. But at one of these outings, I realised the benefits it had on our physical health. I was always one of, if not the oldest diver in the group.
A decade of scuba diving trips took me to the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Thailand and to Sipadan Island in Sabah, one of the 10 best diving spots in the world.
While many of my schoolmates and working colleagues were suffering from one ailment to another, and later going into inactive retirement after age 55, I was enjoying my newfound adventure. Swimming became my regular exercise routine; later it was cycling, which I indulge in nowadays. Cycling was recognised as the fastest growing sports industry in the last decade.
The immense benefits of diving
My daughter who was studying in Australia 20 years ago was envious of my activities and decided to take up scuba diving as a way to bond with me. And she has now become a dive master and later a free diver, who dives on one breath without any breathing apparatus.
Free divers use inward control, discipline and power to descend into the ocean while holding their breath until they resurface. I was blown away by her ability to do this. She is also a yoga instructor, and this certainly enhances her skills.
In the ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” movie a few years ago, Tom Cruise who does all his stunts trained to hold his breath for six minutes while filming. However, in the soon-to-be-released movie “Avatar 2”, Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet actually broke Tom Cruise’s on film breath-hold record.
According to an interview published by The Guardian she held her breath for six minutes and 14 seconds. She had trained with her husband Ned Abel Smith but he blacked out once. After the breath hold, she felt that she had died!
Free diving can increase the strength of your body, help develop muscles and increase endurance and vitality. It can also benefit your joints, which experience less pressure underwater and help strengthen your lungs through exercises to increase oxygen capacity.
Most people can hold their breath underwater for 30 seconds without training compared to free divers who can hold up to 10 minutes. When my daughter started to train as a free diver while she and her scuba trainer husband were working at a dive shop in Gozo Island, off Malta in the Mediterranean, she bought unique long fins for RM800 in Malaysia. Hmm.. at least she did not have to pay for the air tank equipment.
As one descends in a dive, the increased pressure causes the air volume in your lungs to decrease, but the partial pressure of the air inside your lungs increases. This means there is a greater concentration of oxygen and other gases in our lungs than in the blood.
Traditional divers are dwindling in numbers
The lungs compress on the way down and re-expand on the way up to the original volume. There is no need for a safety stop for three minutes at five meters below the surface before resurfacing which is compulsory for scuba divers to help maximise the opportunity for the nitrogen that has been absorbed by the diver to be slowly and safely released from the blood and prevent the risk of decompression sickness.
The Bajau people, also known as sea gypsies living off the coast of Sulawesi Indonesia and who are able to swim even before they can walk, can stay underwater for up to eight minutes. This helps them to fish underwater for groupers and other sea life using a wooden spear gun.
In Japan, there is a group of traditional female free divers, known as Ama (sea woman) who forage for seafood like abalone, sea urchins and lobsters for a living on the Northern Coast of the Shima Peninsula in the Toba region. It boasts the largest number of Amas in Japan. There are around 600 divers with the oldest reaching 82 years old!
However, these traditional divers are dwindling in numbers as sea desertification and natural resource drops due to climate change threaten their livelihood. These are tough women who love their lives that also keep them healthy.
As I gaze down at the swimming pool from my apartment’s balcony, I believe there is no substitute for a healthy lifestyle, with swimming and cycling the top of my daily exercise routine.
Last week, I met a friend who had just returned from a diving trip in Pulau Perhentian. I asked him whether he had dived at the Jeti Taman Laut. Yes, he did and said there was thriving sea life and corals around the artificial reefs below.
I was so glad to hear that as I was one of the dive volunteers who had placed those pvc artificial reefs way back about 20 years ago! I had returned to dive at the place about five years later and was shocked to see the corals which had thrived by then were bleached white due to a global phenomenon of a rise in sea temperature.
While free diving may not be on the list, I am looking forward to my next scuba diving trip with my mates before climate change threatens to reduce the corals and sea life in no time. – The Health
ADI SATRIA, a veteran in marketing communications certainly has not let his 71 years of age slow him down especially in this endemic stage when he needs to up his pace. It’s the only way to stay healthy and happy.