Sue Finchley, Author:
The Unexpected Benefits of Scuba Diving
Scuba diving provides a unique experience which combines adventure and relaxation, sport and mindfulness, physical and mental challenges, as well as an inimitable experience submerged in the splendor of the sea. The opportunity to view beautiful marine species of all shapes, sizes and colors, is the stuff dreams are made of, yet most of us would be surprised to learn that there are documented health benefits from what we like to refer to as our favorite pastime.
The Physical Benefits of Scuba Diving
Some of the many positive physiological effects of scuba diving include muscle building, flexibility and endurance. Water serves as resistance to many muscles most of us do not use assiduously in our daily life above water. Scuba diving is also a top cardiovascular exercise; it works out our heart, improves circulation and burns numerous calories, thereby doing its share to battle obesity. The sport also improves our leg power; through constant paddling, we improve our swimming speed and also the power of our leg muscles. Scuba diving also improves the respiratory system, by increasing our lung capacity. When we breathe deeply, we take in more Oxygen, which promotes healthy heart and lung function. An additional benefit of this sport is that while it helps us improve our fitness levels, it is also relatively risk-free, since unlike traditional cardiovascular sports, it is low impact and presents a low risk of accidents and injuries. Diving is much gentler on the joints than sports which put one to the limit (including marathon running). If you are travelling from another country and your experience with the highly experienced team at Southern Indiana Scuba will be your first, speak to your travel agent to ensure your travel policy covers water sports; this will come in especially handy if you are bringing your own equipment or if you are travelling with the family.
Scuba diving helps us lower stress levels through the immense peace felt in the midst of such unique natural beauty. Some of the most successful mind-body activities, such as yoga, aim to do just that: encourage a state of mindfulness; one in which we are focusing on the ‘here and now’, without letting the stresses of everyday life keep us in a state of chronic stress. Indeed, scuba diving has many things in common with yoga; the latter uses pranayamic (or controlled) breathing to imbue a sense of calm and relaxation. Most scuba divers who also do yoga will probably tell you the best meditation in the world is simply viewing the beauty of sea life, displayed in such peaceful and majestic setting.
Scuba Diving and Nature
Since scuba diving involves close contact with natural wonders, its mental benefits are enhanced. Numerous studies have shown that recreational activities in the midst of Nature have many positive effects on our health. One study, for instance, showed that simply working in a natural environment increases cognitive functioning, innovation, creativity and problem solving skills. Other studies have shown that outdoor activities can help alleviate symptoms of stress, dementia and depression. Activities in the midst of Nature have been found to reduce symptoms of ADD in children, and are recommended as an ideal adjunct to traditional therapy and treatment. By appreciating the beauty of Nature, we are more likely to act as advocates for its survival, which wields positive benefits for the Planet. Scuba diving can also work on a mental level through its social aspect; meeting like-minded individuals can appease the social malaise that is loneliness, as we widen our social circles and even, perhaps, encounter new career opportunities or hobbies (such as underwater photography or journalism), which provide an excellent outlet for expression.
Surprising New Findings: Scuba Diving Improves Physical and Mental Functioning in Veterans with Spinal Cord Injury
A study carried out by researchers at John Hopkins University found ‘dramatic results’ from a study on a small group of veterans with spinal cord injuries. The veterans took part in a four-day scuba diving certification, with researchers noting significant improvement in muscle movement, greater sensitivity to light touch and pinprick on the legs and major reductions in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms. The study was small but promising, since it showed that contrary to established belief, there may be a way to restore neurological and psychological function in paraplegics. The researchers additionally found a 15 per cent reduction in obsessive compulsive disorder symptoms in the divers, a similar reduction in symptoms of depression and a general decrease in mental problems using an established means of assessment.
The Feel-Good Factor of Scuba Diving
The benefits of scuba diving are plentiful, yet ultimately, one of its most appealing characteristics is something difficult to describe: the immense joy we derive from interacting with sea creatures and watching the intricate processes of life weave their magic in such a mysterious and fascinating setting.