How to achieve better Scuba Diving Fitness

By Julius
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Staying fit and healthy will make any sport more fun and scuba diving is no different.

After all, diving underwater involves some physical exercise and strain.

We carry scuba tanks and wear scuba gear, and that’s all before diving for hours underwater, or swimming against currents.

It is estimated that in one hour, scuba divers burn between 400-800 calories!

Therefore, maintaining a good level of fitness has many advantages like more endurance, less air consumption, and ultimately, better diving experiences.

Here are some tips and tricks, as well as specific workouts for scuba divers to increase your diving fitness!

Benefits of better diving fitness

Maintaining a good level of fitness for scuba diving increases your endurance, decreases air consumption, and improves your overall diving experience. With better strength and fitness, your need less extra weights and injuries like exhaustion cramps, and essouflement can be prevented. A healthy diet also improves overall health and prevents decompression illness.

Fitness is great for your health and should be a goal regardless of your hobbies and sports.

As always, a healthy diet is a large part of your fitness, and often even more important than physical exercise.

Scuba diver in ScubaPro gear underwater

Here is a list of benefits of better scuba diving fitness:

Lower risk of injury

Better fitness decreases the risk of injury by falling, or tripping over.

If you ever had a cramp or suffered from exhaustion underwater, you know that it’s an awful feeling. It can also be a real danger in the case of Essouflement (French: Shortness of breath) or hyperventilation.

Lower Air Consumption

The benefit you will probably like the most is a much lower air consumption while diving. Better fitness strengthens the heart and helps you prevent exhaustion from kicking your fins.

You can use the FREE scuba diving air consumption calculator to see the benefits of better fitness and lower weight right away.

Fewer extra weights required

Better fitness usually leads to less weight, which in turn means you can dive with fewer extra weights.

Just a few kilos/pounds can make a big difference, especially if you are able to buy wetsuits or BCDs in lower sizes.

Check the scuba weight calculator to see the effect of lower body weight immediately.

Can prevent decompression illness

Lack of fitness, clogged arteries, and a bad diet may increase the risk of decompression illness.

High caloric diets, lots of sugar, and poor choices like smoking or drinking excessively decrease your overall health and increase your fat tissues.

These are fast-loading tissues that are more prone to outgassing and bubbling than muscles.

Your dive computer is usually not able to tell the difference between fit and unfit divers, you can be on the safer side by increasing your fitness.

Cheaper Scuba Gear

Larger scuba gear sizes are often more expensive and have a worse fit.

This is most noticeable in wetsuits, drysuits, and BCDs.

Of course, this only applies to waist sizes and not to your height.

Scuba divers swimming through reef fish
Smaller scuba gear is better.

Scuba Diving Fitness Requirements

Scuba diving does not require incredible fitness or superhuman strength and can be enjoyed by almost everyone. However, there are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled by everyone wanting to strap on scuba gear to dive:

  • Passed Scuba Medical Checkup
  • Completed Scuba Medical Questionnaire
  • Able to swim at least 200m/600ft unsupported
  • 10 minutes of treading water
  • Recommended: Carry a scuba tank

Passed Scuba Medical Checkup

A medical checkup by a physician is required to start scuba diving, although it is often replaced by simply filling out the scuba medical questionnaire.

Whether this is good or bad, you have to decide for yourself.

During the examination, your lung capacity and heart activity are checked to see if you’re fit to dive.

In some cases, an exercise EKG (electrocardiogram) might be done to be absolutely sure you fulfill the requirements.

Man doing exercise electrocardiogram
Diving fitness should first be determined with a medical checkup.

In addition, the doctor will check your eyesight and balance which are both important underwater.

Completed Scuba Medical Questionnaire

The scuba medical questionnaire is handed out by dive operators and schools to be filled out before any diving activities may start.

It includes a number of questions about your state of health and fitness, as well as your abilities.

If you answer “Yes” to any of the questions, for example, “Do you suffer from any chronic lung diseases?“, a medical checkup is required.

200m/600ft swim

We don’t swim much in scuba diving, however, you need to be able to swim for at least 200m/600ft.

If you aren’t able to fulfill this requirement, you need to improve your fitness first before becoming a scuba diver.

Swimming in general is an incredibly healthy sport and a great full-body exercise that burns many calories. It also helps improve your body’s coordination and balance.

Treading water

Treading water is often found in military training programs for good reasons. It displays endurance and improves overall fitness.

Scuba diver at surface
Treading water for 10 minutes is a requirement to become a diver.

Scuba divers must be able to keep themselves above the water surface for at least 10 minutes straight to be considered fit for diving.

Carry a scuba tank

My personal recommendation is that you should be able to carry a scuba tank on your own.

A full scuba kit can be a bit difficult for some and that’s okay. However, the tank is the minimum weight you should be able to handle to stay safe underwater.

After all, your dive buddy relies on you in emergency cases and you need to be able to get in and out of the water safely.

Of course, there are reasons like old age or disabilities that can pose an exception to this.

Diet Tips for Scuba Divers

A healthy, varied diet is essential for a good level of scuba diving fitness and any other sports. Before a scuba dive, it’s best to refrain from eating any bloating or spicy foods and never drink alcohol. Stick to a minimum of processed sugars and artificial sweeteners and instead go for high-energy healthy food like vegetables.

We all know there are about 2,438,791,198 tips for healthy diets so we will not look into all the general recommendations here. Scuba divers should follow the general dietary recommendations.

The better and healthier your diet, the better your fitness and subsequently the enjoyment you get out of scuba diving.

However, here are some tips to make your actual dives more fun:

Before the dive

Before a scuba dive, you should eat healthy and not too bloating.

Go for high-energy foods that aren’t too oily but give you all the energy needed for at least an hour of diving and swimming.

Bananas, non-spicy rice dishes, sandwiches, or yogurt are great pre-dive foods.

I like to eat bread with healthy toppings like you see below.

Bread with various toppings
A great pre-dive food.

It goes without question to NEVER drink alcohol before scuba diving.

Hydration, however, is super important so drink enough water or tea!

After the dive

Avocado salad with bread
A great food for after scuba diving: Avocado salad with bread.

After diving, you need to replenish your energy and prevent cramps at night. I like to go for rice or pasta as it has plenty of carbohydrates to refill my energy and make me feel great after a dive.

If you like to drink alcohol, now you can, but go light if you can.

Workouts for Scuba Divers

For scuba diving-specific fitness, your focus should be on cardiovascular strength and endurance, leg and core exercises. This can be improved with aerobic exercise routines like running and swimming, as well as gym, or home workouts.

DAN recommends good cardiovascular fitness for scuba divers to be safe while diving.

Aim for exercise at least 3 times a week to improve your cardiorespiratory fitness.

Swimming, bicycling, running, or hiking are great sports that go well together with diving.

Joggers running along pier
Jogging is just one option to increase your endurance.

They all increase your stamina and aerobic endurance, while also increasing leg strength.

The benefits are very noticeable in lower air consumption and stronger fin kicks.

Gym and home workouts add to your core strength and will make carrying your scuba gear easier.

I like to work out about 4-5 times a week with a mix of gym and cardio sessions.

My usual fitness routine includes the following workouts:

  1. Back & Arms
  2. Swimming or bouldering
  3. Chest & Shoulders
  4. Legs
  5. Running

I mix and match them and the order and dates may change.

Of course, you may not have time for this many exercise sessions in a week, so adjust it to your schedule.

Can I work out before a scuba dive?

Yes, you can absolutely work out before a scuba dive without any complications or risk of decompression sickness. However, ensure you are properly hydrated again before the dive. It is also best to not overstrain your legs and torso as you will need them for good fin kicks underwater.

Can I work out after a scuba dive?

No, scuba diving should not be followed by heavy physical exercise or increased heart rates. This is potentially a risk factor for decompression sickness and should be avoided. Normal walking, carrying scuba gear and sexual activities, however, are fine.

Is scuba diving good for your fitness?

Yes, scuba diving is great for fitness, as well as weight loss. It is estimated that divers burn between 400-800 calories per hour of diving and fin kicking, carrying scuba gear, and maintaining buoyancy underwater are good for overall body strength.

It would be too much to call scuba diving a fitness program in itself, however, it is a great supporting sport.

Check out the FREE scuba diving calories burned calculator to see how much calories you will burn on each scuba dive.

Calories counter on paper
You will be happy to hear: Scuba diving burns a lot of calories!

It’s really cool to see how something that’s so much fun, can be this good for your body.

As such, scuba diving is a great sport for everyone looking to get in shape even better or lose weight.


This concludes our guide on scuba diving fitness.

Maintaining good fitness is important for scuba divers and has many great health benefits. It will also make diving more fun and safer.

Both physical exercise and a healthy, well-rounded diet are part of your overall fitness and should be emphasized.

If you have any questions or scuba fitness tips, leave them in the comments!

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About the author

Hey! I'm Julius, professional scuba instructor, diver, outdoor lover, entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Social Diving. I write about scuba diving (including tech, cave, sidemount, and freediving), travel, and love what I do. If you have any questions, send me a message. :-)

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