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Can I Scuba Dive? Prerequisites for Scuba Diving Such as Age and Health

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Photographer and an Octopus underwater.

Learning to dive is just the beginning. Scuba divers travel the world, interacting with incredible aquatic life. This scuba diving photographer shoots a snapshot of a well-camouflaged octopus. Where will scuba diving take you?

istockphoto.com, FrogKick
Once upon a time, when people wore bell-bottom pants and flowers in their hair, scuba diving had the reputation of being a physically demanding and dangerous activity best left to Navy Seals and Jacques Cousteau. Scuba diving has evolved since its early days and this is no longer the case. Advances in scuba equipment, the use of dive computers and sophisticated dive planning, as well as a better understanding of diving physiology have made diving safer and easier than it once was. Almost anyone can learn to dive.

Am I Physically Fit for Scuba Diving?:

All scuba diving students must answer a scuba diving medical questionnaire before beginning a diving course. The high pressure a diver experiences underwater effects how his body functions in a variety of ways. Physical conditions that may not be bothersome, or even noticeable, in everyday life may be dangerous underwater. Lung problems (such as a collapsed lung or asthma), ear issues (such as problems with ear equalization), allergies, and certain diseases are all potentially dangerous underwater. Some medications are contraindicated for diving. Divers should carefully read, and then honestly answer the diving medical questionnaire before beginning to dive, and they should review it periodically throughout their diving careers.
Do You Fulfill the Minimal Requirements for Scuba Diving? Check out These Links to Frequently Asked Questions and Important Information for Beginning Divers:
How Can I Earn My Scuba Diving Certification?
What Are the Physical Fitness Requirements for Scuba Diving?
How Deep Can You Scuba Dive?
How Long Does a Scuba Tank Last?

Am I the Right Age for Scuba Diving?:

The age requirements for scuba diving vary amoung countries and scuba diving organizations. As a general rule, children aged 8 and above may scuba dive, depending upon their maturity level. Most diving organizations offer special children's courses in shallow, controlled conditions for kids aged 8 and above, and allow children 10 and older to enroll in certification courses. In the USA, most organizations require children to be 12 years old before certification. Learn more about children and scuba diving.

Currently, no upper age limit for scuba diving exists. In fact, my oldest open water certification student was a 82 year old female, and she turned out to be a great diver! Research into the risks associated with diving at an advanced age is ongoing.

Do I Need to Know How to Swim Before Learning to Scuba Dive?:

Not exactly. Before enrolling in a scuba course, prospective divers should be relatively comfortable in the water. While it is not necessary to have swum competitively in high school, a diving student should not be so terrified of the water that he is uncomfortable in the deep end of the swimming pool. To enroll in a one-day experience course, a person need only be comfortable in the water. To earn a scuba diving certification, a student diver must pass a watermanship assessment for scuba diving, which varies depending upon the organization and certification level. For example, one organization requires that students tread water/ float for 10 minutes, and swim 200 meters (or snorkel 300 meters) without stopping.

Can I Scuba Dive With a Disability?:

Scuba diving is becoming an increasingly popular sport for people with physical disabilities. Special gear has been developed for divers who may have difficulty using standard dive gear, such as webbed gloves for divers who cannot swim with fins. However, in many cases specialized gear is not necessary. Divers are weightless and move freely underwater, so the weight of the scuba gear is not an impediment. Every new diver must relearn how to efficiently use his body in a completely foreign environment. Divers who have a physical disability are starting at exactly the same point as any other new diver – zero. Read about a hearing-impaired person learning to scuba dive.

Do I Have a Good Reason for Learning to Scuba Dive?:

The fact that most people can learn to scuba dive does not necessarily mean that everyone should. Before enrolling in a scuba diving course, a potential diver should consider his reasons for doing so. Divers who want to learn to dive because it seems like a risky adrenaline-filled sport should reconsider – properly done, recreational scuba diving is a sport about control and relaxation. Furthermore, a person should never take up scuba diving simply to please a spouse, parent or friend. While these people may serve as inspiration, for diving to be safe and enjoyable, a person needs to want to be underwater. The good news is that if you want to learn to dive, you most likely can. Welcome to the 70% of the world that most people never get to see!

Hint: To learn more about scuba diving, check out the numerous articles listed on about.com scuba. Use the tabs across the top of this page to browse articles, or go to the homepage and check out the blue list of topics on the left.

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