Lung volumes of extreme breath-hold divers
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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 wordsTotal lung capacity Humans Diving Adaptation
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