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can fat people scuba dive

My weight has never really stopped me from wanting to go on the next big adventure. That being said, there are activities that have weight limits or special requirements when you’re a bigger man or woman to ensure that everyone involved stays safe.

When it comes to scuba diving, there are challenges ranging from having a suit that fits and the stamina for diving to being properly weighed down and knowing how to control air intake.

With all these challenges, can fat people scuba dive?

Yes, fat people can scuba dive. That being said, you’ll need to be physically healthy enough to safely scuba dive. It’s also important that you meet certain qualifications, such as being able to swim and feeling comfortable in the water. 

Below, we’ll take a closer look at what qualifications you need to meet for scuba diving, as well as some precautions you should take when you are overweight to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable dive. We’ll also talk about the dangers associated with diving, especially for people who are a little larger.

Can Fat People Scuba Dive?

Yes, fat people can scuba dive as long as they are physically healthy enough for the activity. Scuba diving is something that requires a lot of physical exertion. This is especially true when you’re heavier since fat is more buoyant than muscle. This is one of the reasons that fat people float (and swim) well.

This same benefit when you are swimming can be a challenge when scuba diving, though. Because fat is more buoyant, you might need a little more weight to help keep you under the water.

You also might have to work harder to kick/pull your body through the water, but fat people are generally strong so that might not be an issue for you. This is because the weight of the water around you is heavier than air, so there’s a big difference in pressure and the amount of effort you need to exert to move.

That being said, scuba diving is not something that you should just jump right into. There are risks, especially for larger divers. We’ll get to that in a later section.  For now, let’s take a look at what qualifications you need to meet to safely scuba dive.

What Qualifications Do I Need for Scuba Diving?

When you scuba dive for the first time, things like learning to control your air intake and having proper weighting are critical to having a good (and safe) time. Since fat people are usually more buoyant, they may have trouble descending down into the water without proper weights.

For safety reasons, I really recommend getting certified if you want to go scuba diving. Like driving a car, scuba diving is something that you have to be licensed to do in most public areas.

I also highly recommend certification even if you’re scuba diving somewhere more private, especially since it’s something that can be dangerous when you’re larger.

Be in Generally Good Health

Scuba diving is something that requires a certain level of fitness. Your body must be able to adapt to the changing pressure levels around you and you need to control your breathing underwater. For this reason, people with health conditions usually should not dive.

People with heart disease or other cardiac conditions, asthma or respiratory conditions, high blood pressure, and diabetes should not go scuba diving unless it’s approved by their doctor. Since people who are overweight have a higher risk of these diseases, it’s generally best if you have a general wellness check-up within a year of your first scuba diving class.

That being said, there are exceptions to the rule. There have been  cases where diving procedures were adapted, so that someone with asthma or heart disease could safely dive. If you’re unsure, it’s definitely a conversation to have with your doctor or a physician that knows about diving.

Ability to Swim and Be Comfortable in the Water

Knowing how to swim is an obvious one. While weights will help you sink toward the bottom of the lake, ocean, or diving area, it’s important that you know how to swim to move around.

Being comfortable with swimming and diving is also important. When people are nervous or anxious, they usually breathe faster. This causes you to use more oxygen than you need to and shortens how long you can safely stay underwater.

Some Level of Fitness and Flexibility

You don’t have to be fit enough to train for the Olympics if you want to scuba dive, but it does help to be at least a little in shape. Diving does require a little strength and stamina. However, your overall weight doesn’t always mean that you don’t have the strength and stamina for scuba diving.

It’s also helpful if you have a little bit of flexibility when diving. You never really know when you’ll need to reach your oxygen tank or cut off your weights in an emergency.

Is There a Weight Limit for Scuba Diving?

No, there is no pre-set weight limit for scuba diving. Scuba diving is something that requires equipment, so like paddleboarding, parasailing, and all other physical activities that require equipment, you do need to have gear that supports your weight. Dry suits and wet suits are needed for scuba diving and you’ll need to be sure to have an oxygen tank that provides enough air for the duration of your dive.

You’ll also need weights while scuba diving. They help you stay underwater, especially since people are naturally buoyant and the air inside your oxygen tank makes you buoyant as well. Working with a licensed instructor will help you find out how much weight you need so that you can safely sink below the surface.

Is It Dangerous to Scuba Dive if I’m Overweight?

In one study published in Diving and Hyperbaric Medicine, researchers collected data from deaths that occurred while scuba diving between 2001 and 2013 in Australia. Of the 126 fatalities studied, around 77% were either overweight or obese.

But what does this mean? Does it mean that scuba diving is actually dangerous if you’re on the larger side? Well, not necessarily.

There’s something to be said for your overall level of fitness, plus there are safety measures that can be taken that make the trip down (and back up) safer for larger divers. It is really important that you know what you’re doing and that you can confidently take care of yourself in an emergency.

Why Your Diving Instructor Matters

When you’re overweight, diving comes with a few unique challenges and things you need to watch out for, so you have a safe and fun scuba expedition. It’s best to work with a diving instructor that has been in the job a while and who knows about these challenges and how to safely guide their bigger divers.

What Makes Diving Dangerous for Overweight Divers?

The truth is, scuba diving can be dangerous for anyone regardless of their weight. That being said, there are certain dangers that are a little more risky for someone whose overweight.

At one time, it was believed that fat people had a higher risk of decompression sickness (DS) because fatty tissue holds five times the amount of nitrogen as water. The greater concentration of nitrogen in your body is what causes DS, especially if you change pressure rapidly.

That being said, overweight people who are diving at sea level have no greater risk of decompression sickness. It is only when diving several times in a short period (like days) or diving at high or low altitudes that causes DS.

People who are overweight are also at a greater risk of hyperthermia, or overheating. The greatest risk comes when diving in cool water when it’s hot outside, especially since fat is an insulator and will keep you warm. People who are larger may want to wear a thinner suit when diving in cool water, especially since fat people sweat more and you won’t be able to sweat effectively to cool off under the suit.

Finally, being able to control your breathing intake when exerting yourself is also important. If you aren’t physically fit, the amount of exertion required to move yourself in the water can make breathing heavier. This is especially true when deep diving, since the amount of pressure under water so great.

If you have asthma or trouble breathing during physical activity, then you’ll want to be open with your instructor about your challenges. Be cautious not to exert yourself too much when you’re moving under water either.

Is There Anything I Can Do To Dive Safely as Someone Who is Overweight?

Before you go on your first dive, there are quite a few things you’ll want to consider and go over. Even if you find that diving isn’t a good fit for you now, there is no reason that you can’t work on a few fitness goals and give it another go in the future.

Starting with shallower dives is also an alternative, especially since there are a lot of fitness benefits. Like all types of physical activity, from mountain climbing to kayaking, things like your muscle strength, stamina, and flexibility are all going to improve with time. You could also see a doctor whose familiar with the physical demands of scuba diving if you aren’t sure if you are healthy enough.

Before you dive, you’ll also want to check your gear and make sure you can cut your weights loose in an emergency. Be sure there isn’t any gear that would pin it down. Also, be sure that you are flexible enough that you could reach the weights to cut them if you need to and rise to the surface.

Finally, there are some things you should avoid after diving because they can make compression sickness worse, like changing altitude (such as when skydiving or mountain climbing) or drinking. Massages should also be avoid, particularly deep tissue massages, since they hide the symptoms of DS so you won’t be as easily diagnosed if you need to seek medical help.

Benefits of Scuba Diving for Fat People

Any kind of water activity is a great exercise that doesn’t put a lot of pressure on the joints. When you’re bigger, your joints tend to absorb a lot more impact when you’re exercising. Water makes you more buoyant and reduces pressure on the joints, while also giving you a freer range of motion.

Like most types of physical activity, there are benefits like better stamina and increased respiratory fitness, greater muscle strength, and improved flexibility. The benefits increase the more you are involved in the activity.

There are social and mental benefits as well. There’s just something magically relaxing about taking in all that you see while scuba diving. It’s a great way to unwind and it’s a great way to make friends when you’re fat as well.

Final Word

Fat people can scuba dive and as long as you are physically fit enough for the physical exertion of the activity, you really should. There are a few risks associated with diving when you weigh more, but a little precaution and working with an experienced instructor will go a long way as far as making your dive safe and enjoyable.

Not only is scuba diving a great way to be physically active, but it’s incredibly relaxing to be down there and seeing everything moving around. There’s a whole world down there and I really hope to see you in it!

Camila R.

Camila is a body positive blogger and fat activist that's focused on helping people of all sizes live life big! That means accepting yourself at any size and just enjoying life! She lives in New Mexico with her husband and two chihauhuas.

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