In this guide we'll share key insights on how to learn to hold your breath longer.
Most people can hold their breath for about 30 seconds to 2 minutes.
However, Aleix Segura Vendrell from Barcelona, Spain currently holds the Guinness World Record at 24 minutes and 3 seconds as of February 2016.
Ask yourself why you want to learn this skill.
Is it because you're often around water or a surfer?
If that's the case, then learning this valuable skill could one day save your life.
Learning how to hold your breath for a longer time can have a lot of benefits.
When you do this, you can go on different adventures and see things you've never seen before.
Freediving enthusiasts will tell you that it's an unreal and life-changing experience to go snorkeling.
Also check out our guide to making a simple surf workout plan.
Before you learn how to hold your breath for a longer amount of time, it is important to know that it is not about fighting the feeling of suffocation.
In fact, it is not difficult to hold your breath for up to two or three minutes if you take a freediving course that teaches breath control.
If you want to learn how to hold your breath for a long time, you need to do breathing exercises that increase the oxygen levels throughout your body.
This will develop a more relaxed and peaceful state, allowing you calm down, eliminate panic, and enjoy the experience of holding your breath.
NOTE: Learning how to hold your breath should only be done under the guidance of a professional.
If it's on your bucket list, find a freediving course near you!
Learning how to hold your breath for a longer period underwater can be dangerous, so it's important to understand what is happening in your body and the possible side effects before you start.
If you are practicing holding your breath under water, always do so with someone else present in case of an emergency.
A shallow water blackout is unfortunately very common among people who are first learning how to hold their breath for a prolonged amount of time.
What happens when you hold your breath
When you hold your breath, these things happen to your body:
0:00 to 0:30.
As you close your eyes and tune out the hustle and bustle of the world, you may feel more relaxed.
0:30 to 2:00.
The pain you feel in your lungs is from a lack of oxygen, not necessarily because you're running out of air. Training yourself to slow your breathing and take deeper inhalations will help with this. However, holding your breath for too long is still dangerous because it builds up carbon dioxide (CO₂) in your blood stream.
2:00 to 3:00.
Your stomach muscles rapidly contract and spasm when you're about to vomit. This is because your diaphragm is trying to force you to take a breath.
3:00 to 5:00.
You'll start to feel dizzy. As CO₂ levels rise, it expels more and more oxygen from your circulation and reduces the amount of oxygen-rich blood flowing to your brain.
5:00 to 6:00.
As your muscles uncontrollably contract, you may notice your body start to shake. If you hold your breath at this point, it can become dangerous.
6:00 and longer.
Losing consciousness is your brain's way of getting you to start breathing again when it senses you're not getting enough oxygen. If this happens underwater, the water can fill up your lungs and be deadly.
Can you die from holding your breath?
If you blackout from holding your breath, the water will rush into your lungs.
If someone does CPR on you or emergency responders help get the water out of your lungs, you may survive.
But usually, blacking out from holding your breath underwater is deadly.
How to learn to hold your breath longer underwater
If you want to increase your apnea time, make sure to do so slowly.
Use good judgement: If you start feeling dizzy or have any other symptoms of oxygen deprivation, stop and take a breath.
Here’s a step-by-step guide for how to learn to hold your breath longer:
- When you take a deep breath, make sure to do it properly. Inhale deeply and completely- your belly should go up and down, not just your shoulders and chest. A full, deep breath usually takes around 20 seconds before you exhale.
- Exercising is not only good for your overall health, but it specifically helps improve your lung capacity. Box breathing and diaphragmatic breathing are two great exercises to start with.
- Learn how to hold your breath for one minute. Take a break for 90 seconds, and then hold your breath for another minute. After that, start taking shorter breaks of 15 seconds.
- To store oxygen, follow the oxygen tables. This means holding your breath for 1 minute, breathing normally for 2 minutes, then adding 15 seconds between each break and maintaining a two-minute break every time.
- Do CO₂ static apnea exercises one day, and oxygen table exercises the next day. Take a few hours of rest in between each exercise.
- Gradually increase how long you hold your breath in your oxygen deprivation exercise. Do this slowly and don't rush it. Hold your breath until you start to feel lightheadedness or other symptoms. Once you feel safe and comfortable, gradually increase the duration of your sessions.
- Stop what you're doing and take a break! When you stop, you can breathe better. You'll use less oxygen when you hold your breath if you're still. You can also try to slow down your heart rate by using vagal maneuvers.
Additional exercises for how to learn to hold your breath longer
There are exercises that can help keep your lungs healthy.
This will help you get the oxygen your body needs.
1. Diaphragmatic breathing
The diaphragm is located beneath the lungs.
It helps to expel carbon dioxide.
People with COPD may not be able to use their diaphragm as well.
This is good for them because their diaphragm may be damaged.
When you are well-rested, practice this method of breathing.
If you have COPD, ask your doctor or respiratory therapist how you can use this exercise to get the most out of it.
Diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to relax, and according to the COPD Foundation, it's easy too.
2. Pursed-lips breathing
Pursed-lip breathing eases the strain on your lungs and helps to improve oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange.
Because it is less demanding than diaphragmatic breathing, it is a popular choice among beginners who can do this exercise any time.
In order to help you relax, take a deep breath in and then slowly exhale through pursed lips.
This should take at least double as long as it took to breathe in.
Repeat as needed.
How to keep your lungs healthy so you can hold your breath longer
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and it's better to proactively work towards keeping your lungs healthy rather than wait for something to go wrong and then try to repair the damage.
The following tips will help you keep your lungs healthy:
- Stop smoking and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke or environmental irritants.
- Antioxidant-rich foods improve lung function.
- Vaccinations against the flu and pneumonia can help prevent lung infections.
- Frequent exercise strengthens the lungs.
- Frequently engage in high cardiovascular workouts such as running, Muay Thai workouts at home, or swimming.
Final tips on how to learn to hold your breath longer
Although it may seem trivial, holding your breath for extended periods of time has a plethora of benefits, ranging from saving your life to gaining new underwater experiences.
If you're interested in learning how to hold your breath longer, follow these beginner surfing tips instead of going at it alone.
One key tip is to incorporate a breathing plan into your surf workout routine–this will help improve your lung capacity and make you a stronger surfer overall.
Keep safety in mind while practicing different techniques; without proper guidance, attempting to hold your breath for too long can be harmful or even deadly.