Have you ever wondered why, at most dive resorts, the instructing staff seem to be all relatively slender, even though they don’t seem to be regular gym users or avid fitness practitioners? Well, you would be surprised to know that it’s mostly due to scuba diving. After some careful scientific digging around for facts, it turns out that scuba diving is one of the best low impact exercise activities you can undertake, even after you discount all the tank carrying and dive gear moving that professionals have to do. So here is the low down on scuba diving and calorie expenditure.
There are many different facts and figures around about how many calories are used when scuba diving; there are even dedicated online calculators that try and determine how many calories a person of a given weight would use. After taking a look at these calculators, it is apparent that they do not all use the same calculation, since the same inputs give different results. However, after some study, it is clear that as a rough guide the average diver uses between 400 to 700 calories per hour while scuba diving. You have to take into account that this figure is not set in stone and can be quite variable. The actual amount of calories used is affected by conditions such as currents, water temperature, and overall level of exercise during the dive.
The Similans water is warm but Koh Tachai or Richelieu Rock can have strong currents.
Taking these figures and comparing them to other athletic activities such as jogging, which would you believe only burns about 400 to 500 calories per hour, it becomes clear that diving is far more fun than running, and the payoff in terms of calories is much more favorable.
Considering that by most international standards, the required daily calorie intake for men is 2000 calories and 1500 for women, it becomes quite obvious that even at the low end of calculations at 400 calories per dive, a two dive day would result in you burning 800 calories, which amounts to 40% of the daily calories needed by a man, and that is just diving. This is why most avid divers who take a Similan liveaboard trip will notice that at the end of the week, despite eating 4 or 5 meals a day, they have lost a kilo or two, since 4 or 5 dives per day total nearly 2000 calories. They are burning an enormous amount of calories and losing weight even after their 5 meals.
How Come? At the end of the dive, you are not pouring with sweat or out of breath and yet, you are burning a large amount of calories. The explanation for this high calorie burn rate is twofold:
Firstly, the weightless environment when diving, coupled with the water dissipating heat away from the body 20 times faster than air, results in massively reducing the perception of exercise as well as the intensity of the activity.
Secondly, even when diving in the tropics, the water is significantly cooler than the human body, and as a result, your metabolism speeds up in order to generate heat to replace the heat that is dissipated away by the water. The process of keeping warm and generating heat requires the human body to burn an enormous amount of calories, and this terrific calorie burn happens without the sensation of exercise, so you don’t even feel it. To give you an idea about how many calories are needed to keep warm, most experts agree that in arctic conditions, you need to consume 6000 to 9000 calories per day to survive, the majority of these calories are used by our bodies to keep warm – this is an enormous amount of energy compared to normal living conditions. (Diving Physiology)
So now, you can add scuba diving to your weight loss program, as an integral part of your calorie intake/outflow calculations. You might even want to consider adding a calories burned entry to your diving logbook.
On the other hand, if you live somewhere cooler, with less than tropical waters temperature, you can use the prospect of burning a ton of calories as a great motivator to get out there, get in the water and go diving. As an added bonus to your weight loss program, the colder the water, the more calories your body will burn to maintain its core temperature! If the water is really cold, you do have to be cautious with your choice of thermal protection, since the last thing you want is to end up becoming hypothermia. (Find out more at TDI Hypothermia
Alternatively, what more do you need as a motivator to book your next dive trip to somewhere warm, sunny, and with amazing diving than the prospect of shedding a few extra pounds? Don’t think of it as a diving trip, it’s a training trip.