By tearing down the artificial barriers of age and sex and successfully distancing itself from the military-style teaching methods of yesteryear, recreational diving has achieved a skyrocketing participation rate. But in the shadow of this growing popularity it’s sometimes easy to forget that diving is a physically demanding activity; one that requires minimum standards of health and fitness.
The good news is that it’s not necessary to put yourself through the rigours of a daily “boot-camp” style programme to achieve those minimum standards. Thankfully, we have become a little more pragmatic and possibly a little less idealistic in our attitudes concerning fitness, particularly when compared with diving’s early days when “ ... as a general rule, people over 30 years of age should not be selected for training as divers. Trained divers can continue for some years after this age, but must be watched carefully as they enter their late thirties. Divers beyond the age of 45 ought not to be employed on deep diving or in any work involving long stays under pressure. People who are overweight should be rejected” as should people with “short necks ...or those who are subject to cold hands and feet”. *
Fortunately for the growth of diving, education and enlightenment have challenged many of those formerly restrictive requirements. But just to be on the safe side, it’s still worthwhile crawling out of bed at dawn and allowing somebody with all of the delicate sensibilities of a psychopathic drill sergeant to shout you through an exercise programme.
Maintaining a good standard of diving fitness is an insurance policy against the day when it becomes necessary to summon previously untapped reserves of stamina and energy. It’s an investment in safety, one that pays dividends.
* All of the italicised quotes are taken directly from early Naval and Commercial diver training texts.
Diving since 1961 — with a background in military, commercial, recreational and technical diving — David Strike has dived extensively throughout the Asia-Pacific region, is a Fellow of the Explorers Club and the organiser of the biennial OZTeK Diving Conference.