Sport Sciences for Health

, Volume 7, Issue 2–3, pp 55–59 | Cite as

Lung volumes of extreme breath-hold divers

  • Guido FerrettiEmail author
  • Mario Costa
  • Renato Moroni
  • Piera Ranieri
  • Ferdinando Butti
  • Nicola Sponsiello
Original Article


Achievements in breath-hold diving depend, amongst others, on body oxygen stores at start of dive. A diver with very high lung volumes could increase dive’s duration, and attain deeper depths for a given speed. Thus, we hypothesized that extreme breath-hold divers have very high lung volumes. On eight extreme breathhold divers (age 35 + 4 years, height 179 + 7 cm, body mass 76 + 6 kg) and 9 non-diving controls (age 37 + 6 years, height 177 + 4 cm, body mass 81 + 9 kg) residual volume, vital capacity and total lung capacity (TLC) were measured with a body plethysmograph. Forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) were measured with a spirometer. Peak expiratory flow and flow-volume loops were measured with a pneumotachograph. In divers, but not in controls, volumes and capacities were systematically and significantly (p<0.01, paired t-test) higher than predicted from their body size. Consistently, volumes and capacities were significantly higher in divers than in controls, except for residual volume. Divers’ TLC was 22% higher than predicted, and 21% higher than in controls. All divers’ TLC was higher than 8 L, two had it higher than 9 L. FVC and FEV1 were significantly higher in divers than in controls. The FEV1/FVC ratio was the same in both groups. We conclude that extreme breath-hold divers may constitute a niche population with physiological characteristics different from those of normal individuals, facilitating the achievement of excellent diving performances.

Key words

Total lung capacity Humans Diving Adaptation 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guido Ferretti
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mario Costa
    • 3
  • Renato Moroni
    • 4
  • Piera Ranieri
    • 5
  • Ferdinando Butti
    • 1
  • Nicola Sponsiello
    • 6
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze Biomediche e BiotecnologieUniversità di BresciaBresciaItaly
  2. 2.Département des Neurosciences FondamentalesUniversité de GenèveGenève 4Switzerland
  3. 3.Divisione di AnestesiologiaOspedale Umberto ISiracusaItaly
  4. 4.Istituto Clinico Città di BresciaServizio di Ossigenoterapia IperbaricaBresciaItaly
  5. 5.Casa di Cura Sant’Anna, Servizio di BroncopneumologiaUnità Operativa di MedicinaBresciaItaly
  6. 6.Apnea Academy ResearchPaduaItaly

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