Exercise to reduce the risk of decompression sickness

Stay fit, dive safe!

About simple non-medication method to block the development of decompression disease

Can physical exercise before scuba diving prevent or at least reduce the risk of decompression sickness? The answer is positive. In 2004 a research group from the University of Split School of Medicine together with scuba diving medicine researchers from Norway discovered a simple non-pharmacological method for decreasing air bubble formation in human body tissues and bloodstream. According to their findings, some short intensive physical exercise performed by healthy scuba divers 24 hours before scuba diving resulted in significant reduction of the number of gas bubbles in their pulmonary artery compared to the number of bubbles when they went diving without preceding exercise. As it is known, those bubbles are directly responsible for the development of the condition called decompression sickness (the bends, decompression disease) that can impair scuba diver's brain and lead to a fatal outcome. Anyway, the other sources say that exercise can work also negative way with the DCS. A scuba diver shouldn't excercise less than 12 hour before going on a dive. The point is the human body needs at least 12 hours to complete the cycle of producing proteins responsible for the decrease of decompression sickness that is triggered by physical load. If scuba diver exercises less than 12 hours before going on a dive, this is the gap of time, during which there occurs increase in the number of gas micronuclei on which bubbles form, and that's naturally the favorable phase for an increased development of Decompression Sickness - you need to wait until it ends. Therefore exercising immediately after coming to the surface from a dive is absolutely contraindicated - this is the instance they are dangerous for scuba diver, especially considering blood pressure on resurfacing increases letting gas bubbles more easily transit from the venous to the arterial bloodstream, which too can lead to the development of the DCS. The bottom line: If you are a healthy scuba diver, it is recommended that you exercise regularly to stay fit, for physical fitness can reduce the risk of decompression sickness dramatically. But be aware that excercising less than 12 hours before the dive on the contrary exposes you to greater risk of developing this dangerous condition while later on a dive. Never exercise immediately after scuba diving.

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Related: Fast emergency ascending and re-surfacing from depth due to the lack of air may result in air embolism, while scuba diving. This is a very dangeous condition needing surgery of the burst lungs.

Ukrainian Society of Professional Scuba Diving Instructors
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