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SCUBA diving is an excellent sport to improve your overall physical and emotional health while also gaining new skills, forming new friendships and expanding your environmental awareness. “The act of exploring the underwater world and being one amongst a sea of unique creatures and organisms is an exhilarating and life-changing experience unlike no other” explains Theresa Kaplan, Director of Communications for The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI). “Scuba diving provides a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, which is why so many people are drawn to this activity.”
I didn’t find scuba diving – it found me. Five years ago, I was holidaying on Lembongan Island, just east of Sanur. Walking around the tourist area, the Open Water PADI Dive kiosk caught my eye. I’d heard good things about scuba diving, but none of it prepared me for the adventure on which I was to embark.
Soon, I was bobbing on the ocean surface: positioning a mask and regulator. I pressed the deflator. The horizon drifted upwards. It was replaced with an incredible blue gradient. Then, silence, broken only by the gentle bubbles I exhaled. A welcoming peace ensues as you descend below the surface. For a brief time, you leave behind the worries and pressures of everyday life. Your attention is drawn to the movement of fish, the vibrant colours of the coral and your newfound ability to twist and roll in neural buoyancy.
I was hooked from that first dive. I have since experienced the awe of diving with manta-rays, floated over coral and sea life that would put Australia’s best aquariums to shame and braved the shark territory waters around Rottnest Island.
Scuba diving provides a full body workout that combines cardio and strength training to burn calories and tone muscles. “Although your body is buoyant and you feel virtually weightless underwater, maneuvering through water requires constant motion by your entire body, thus toning and strengthening muscles in your shoulders and thighs” says Kaplan. Most diving excursions last about 30 to 45 minutes, so depending on the diver’s level of experience and the type of dive, you can burn up to 500 calories or more per dive.
Studies show those who dive on a regular basis are less prone to strokes and heart attacks. Additionally, diving helps keep your lungs fit and improves your breathing. Deep, steady breathing is essential to optimize air consumption and maximize your diving time. During a dive, you rely on an oxygen tank to breathe air and in the process exercise your lungs by expanding them to absorb more oxygen. This helps with the prevention of lung diseases and can improve existing conditions such as asthma.
Scuba diving raises your concentration and awareness. As you swim and navigate your way underwater, you continually keep your balance by coordinating your leg and arm movements while striving not to damage the precious marine life around you. As a result, you learn to control your body without losing attention to your surrounding environment.
Interestingly, most divers describe their time underwater as a form of meditation. A 2014 Swedish study in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health discussed the important role of nature in stress relief. Being captivated by the sights of fascinating marine life with the only noise being the sound of your own breathing can free you from the pressures of life. Hence, diving can boost happiness and prevent depression .
The underwater world is alive with diversity! Only diving can provide you with an intimate encounter with these gifts of nature. You’ll discover marine creatures you’ve never seen before and feel more connected with nature, learning to value it more than you did before.
As you progress from basic to advanced training and specialty courses, you’ll continuously harness new skills. You’ll have the opportunity to immerse yourself in underwater naturalism, search and rescue techniques as well as underwater photography. Through diving, you never stop learning and discovering new and exciting things.
By joining a scuba diving class or club, you will greet many like-minded individuals with similar interests who can become your lifelong friends. Divers rely on a buddy system, to ensure all divers are helped, watched out for and protected. Your confidence and interpersonal skills will certainly grow and develop through the experiences you gain and the connections you make in diving classes. Of course, these skills are important in helping you in your future career!