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can starting too young damage your lungs?

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Freedom In Blue

New Member
Dec 8, 2003
hi guys, first post here. im 16 and ive just discovered freediving. ive started practicing at my local pool and with various breath excercises such as packing. however recently i have informed my parents of my plans to take up the sport and they have warned me that starting before im 21 (when supposedly my lungs will finish developing) will damage my lungs :naughty . i seem to remember them saying somthing about bursting the little alveoli in my lungs.

just wanted to know if you guys knew anything about the dangers of starting too young.

as far as i know, i don't think there is any risk of damaging your lungs, providing you already have healthy lungs. i would think your lungs should be fairly well developed by the age of 16.

however, you have to realise that anyone can damage their lungs by freediving - young or old - by diving too deep, too soon or packing too much or whatever. be very careful with packing. you definitely can damage your lungs if you over-do it.

i feel sure that it is perfectly safe for you to freedive recreationally (shallow) at the age of 16. placing strain on your lungs by packing or diving deep (to the point where your lungs are empty) *may* not be a good idea though. right now, you shouldn't be concerned with those things. the important thing is to learn how to freedive safely, gain some experience and focus on enjoying the activity.

in the meantime, i would seriously recommend getting some form of instruction from an experienced freediver. if you can't attend a course, then see if there is an experienced freediver living in your area. it's vital that you know how to freedive safely. check www.britishfreediving.org for details.

i will ask a knowledgable freediving friend about this issue, and will post if i have anything else to add....

if you have any other questions then just ask.

Personally, I think that starting to freedive before your lungs are fully developed may offer insurmountable advantages. For example, a child's trachea is very collapsable, while an adult's is rigid. If the trachea were repeatedly 'squeezed' while it is still 'squeezable', it may never become fully rigid, allowing the diver to maintain a more flexible chest than someone who started at a later age. However this is only a THEORY! I can't make any recommendations!

Do keep in mind that in the sponge diving tribes most of the time kids are taught to sponge dive at a very young age.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
thanks guys for all the help. i agree with your viewpoint efattah, lol, but somehow i dont think my parents will change their minds when they hear how cool it is to be squeezing my trachea.

and as for any other questions....
as ive been doing lengths in my local swimming pool ive started getting contractions, and then being able to carry on for another 7 or so strokes. when before i had been comming up to breath the minuite they started. i was just wondering how many contractions you usually expect when you dive. and whether you begin to surface as soon as you start to get them, or stay down a little longer and put up with them. i.e do you consider them a fundemental part of the dive.
i asked my friend what he thought and he had nothing extra to add. he doesn't think basic breath-holding and freediving will do any harm to your lungs. it would probably do them good if anything. BUT... no-one can be certain about the effect deep diving and packing would have, so as a safe precaution it may be advisable that you don't do those things until you are just a little older.

do you have an experienced freediver watching you when you freedive in the pool? it's not good enough to have joe bloggs watching - they really need to know what they're doing. they need to have a basic understanding of freediving and know how to recognise problems and know what to do to help.

contractions are normal when breath-holding for an extended periods of time. freedivers who hyperventilate don't always get them, and so they don't get the urge to breathe and end their apnea. this usually ends in a samba or BO. by not hyperventilating you make sure that you do get contractions and therefore know that you should surface very soon. what is hyperventilating? how long is a piece of string?... my advice would be to aim for around 3 deep breaths a minute, or even 2. for me 4 breaths a minute is too much.

it's very important that you progress slowly when you first begin freediving. don't put pressure on yourself to go further and further. just enjoy it and you will progress naturally without even trying. the most important thing is that you do things safely and you have someone watching you the *whole* time.

ok then, thanks Alun. ill stop the packing until im older (better safe than sorry). thanks for the support on the whole lung damage thing, like you said, im not pushing myself too hard, and enjoying it.

i dident know that hyperventilating lead to lack of contarctions, lol, ill have to be more careful in the future methinks.

as for the whole safety thing, i have a good friend who is a lifeguard at my local pool, and although not a freediver, he is well educated in these matters, and i usually ask him to watch me. however its probably in my interests to get a buddy sorted (my dad used to do scuba, so i could probably get him interested, and drag him allong to a safety course and train with him)

again, thanks for the advice
no problem. i'm a member of the BFA (British Freediving Association) committee and so i do my best to help British freedivers in particular. as i said before, if you have any questions, then just post them here or send a message to the BFA mailing list... it's worth joining the list, because it will keep you up-to-date with the latest news and developments. you can join here:

having a lifeguard to watch you is good, providing he/she watches you the whole time when you're holding your breath. sorry to go on about this, but it's really important. if the lifeguard is watching you whilst on duty, then there is a chance he/she may be distracted by something else.

have fun & be safe

Here in Canada, Craig Molle was training in a pool, and told the lifeguard to 'watch him.' Unfortunately the lifeguard had lots of other people to watch as well, and Craig died on the bottom of the pool after blacking out in static apnea.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
i gotta be careful then. ive just e-mailed my dad (hes in austrailia, lucky git) and directed him to a host of freediving sites. then hopefully ill be able to steer him to taking me on a beginner course. ive also joined the the yahoo british freediving group with that link you gave me Alun. thanks for the help guys, keeping the sport of freediving as safe as it can be!

Never ever practice alone, make sure someone is "watching" not just looking . I have beeen holding my breath since age 7/ on and off and have never had a problem. if anything it could help you develop your skills even further in the future. how good you are has nothing to to how safe you are, you are only safe if there is someone on the surface who is watching your every movement as SWB can happen at any time independent of the need to breath. You don't have to call it freediving as bone head macho types like PIPin have taken upon thenselves to give freediviers a death seaker image..... tell them you are snorkeling or practicing your Apnea. Freediving might have negative conotation in your parents eyes. You can scuba by age 13 and that seems like it posses greater potential risks than breath-holding.. I would be very careful with packing I might wait anothe rcouple of years to do that however. 18 is def. old enough!!! im 22 and I wish I had been serious about it since 16 instead of 18, id already be hitting 100'
good luck...........
thanks for the support Spearooo. i think that your right in that freediving has a "deathseeker image" and fortunatly it was'nt that that drew me to the sport. but it is somthing that needs to be stopped

Where in Aus does your dad live, and if you like I'll hook him up with some locals who can teach him
no, sorry loopy, you must have misunserstood, my dad dosent live in aus hes just currently on holiday there (yes, without me, my mum and my bro, but hey) sorry to not make that clearer.

he does go over there quite a lot tho. hes in melbourne currently (not far away from where they film neighbours) and he usually stays there for quite a while. so if you were willing i guess you could hook him up with some freedivers from there. lol, get him educated to the fact that freediving isnt all about killing yourself.
Freedom in blue...My first advice is to find and join a freediving school ,near you. There, you could get the ``right`` knowledge about freediving and most important ,``under safe conditions``...
You`re in the right age starting freediving, cause your lungs are almost fully growned ,and your respetory system is much more flexible than an adult`s one...Never hyperventilate. The right breathing rythm is 5sec inhales and 10sec exhales (a quicker rythm is hyperventilation)...If you apply this rythm right, then you`ll get the, by all means necessary contractions. ( contractions are a ``defend` mechanism of our body ,which inform us that we`ve burned all our O2 supplies and we`re running high on co2 levels)...Remember,, we always stop our dive, with the first contraction...Two contractions are risky, three are dangerous ,and might lead to samba and blackout...
Freediving is a beautifull sport (a way of life for some, including myself), and if practised wisely, safe too...

Cheers mate...
cheers man, its interesting how some freedivers ive spoken too consider around 15 contractions a good place to stop. whereas other (like yourself) regard one contraction as an end to a dive. personally i hate contractions, so the fewer i have to put up with the better :) . anyway, thanks for your input, it has been very helpful.
freedive training in the uk

Hi Freedom
if you are looking for training in the UK - have a look at
www.saltfreedivers.com and come and train with us next season.

We have various pool meets through the winter as well so if you let me know where you are, I can put you in touch with someone local


Since I was 7 years old - I have beeing practicing breathing exercise-and nothing happen--- Now I agreed completetly with Alun about that if you do over do packing you can damage your lung--


"How good is our Creator that not only gave us the air to breath but to look for the spiritual riches"
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thanks for the input as ever, yeah ive stopped lung packing until im older thanks.

as for where i live- well its not exactly freediver central thats for sure, at the moment i live in the town of Chatham, in Kent. i doubt there will be many freedivers at all here since although its fairly near the coast the furthest you can see in water here is about 3cm! but if you do know anyone, put me in touch, it would be appreciated.

i had a look at your site, and all i can say is "WOW". Other than that all i can say is that im very jelous of you!
i *think* Dave King (good UK freediver) lives somewhere in Kent. he is a member of the AIDAUK yahoo group - maybe you could hunt down his email in the member's list and get in touch so he can give you a few pointers.

i seem to remember them saying somthing about bursting the little alveoli in my lungs.[/QUOTE]

I heard exactly the same thing from a guy in germany today.

It doesn't seem to make sense, at all, to me, but this guy who told me is a mega-sports guy, and 'ought to know'.

I can imagine through packing, that you could REALLY do some harm, but he reckoned just through extended breath holding that you could do this.

Purely logically, it makes no sense - if this was the case, then surely you would get worse and worse, the more you breath-held, right?

Also, logically, I would have thought that the more you develop lung capacity/adapt through exercise/breath-holding, then the more the arteries and veins must have to grow to fill and use that expanding lung capacity, right?

I would love to get onto the source of this seemingly illogical idea ... any ideas?
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