What Affects Your Health and Fitness for Scuba Diving

One of the most important aspects of safety in diving is that of personal health and fitness. We all know that we shouldn't dive with a cold or if we aren't “well,” but remaining objective in the assessment of our personal fitness for diving can be a difficult task. It is very easy to rationalize away any number of contra-indications simply because we want to dive.

In addition, we might not always recognize some of the factors that affect our fitness for diving. In the interest of a more complete and objective self-evaluation, consider applying the I'M SAFE checklist. Each letter of this acronym stands for an important component in our overall health and fitness. If any of these components is compromised, so is our diving fitness.

Illness. Any illness has the potential for degrading our fitness for diving. Certainly, any condition that affects our respiratory system or sinuses is a contraindication for diving. Remember that even minor symptoms can sometimes signal a developing or serious underlying condition.

Medication. Avoid the use of medication when diving. Often the physiological effects of medication can be altered due to the increased pressure at depth. Consult a diving physician before diving with any form of medication.

Stress. Stress comes in a variety of forms, and we can never completely avoid stress in our lives. Physical stresses can come in the form of strenuous exercise or cold conditions Psychological stresses or emotional stress can also degrade our performance.

Alcohol. Alcohol has a number of effects on divers that make it incompatible with safety. It increases peripheral circulation, thus increasing heat loss. It also alters the mechanisms by which nitrogen enters and leaves our blood and tissues. Simply stated, a person who has been drinking alcohol should abstain from diving.

Fatigue. While we might think of diving as a form of relaxation, it can often be physically and mentally demanding. A tired diver might be slow to resolve a problem, or not have the physical capability to meet the needs of a demanding situation.

Eating (nutrition). The human body can be thought of as an engine, and without sufficient fuel the engine simply cannot perform. Food is the fuel of the human body, and unless we eat right, we are depriving ourselves of the fuel needed to dive safely.

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