How to Hold Your Breath Underwater for a Long Time

Static apnea is the discipline of holding your breath, normally while underwater, for several minutes at a time, and was made famous by David Blaine during his ‘drowned alive’ stunt. To perform, this requires a great amount of mental discipline and physical control, along with the right preparation, technique and physical qualities. So how exactly is it done, and how can you learn to hold your breath underwater and start imitating a fish?


If you were really interested in breaking the record for static apnea, then you would begin by inhaling pure oxygen for 30 minutes. This is in accordance with the guidelines set by the governing bodies and then allows you to ensure you have as much oxygen as possible in your lungs before setting off.

Now if you’re just planning to swim a length underwater, you probably won’t have access to any pure oxygen or the machinery necessary to inhale it. Instead you could achieve something similar by using controlled breathing prior to setting off to inhale as much oxygen as possible. This would involve taking larger gulps of air and then shorter out-breaths in order to take in more than you expel. You would then take one larger gulp of air to ensure you had a large amount available before you went under.


When David Blaine finally broke the record for static apnea on the Oprah Winfrey show (it was his second attempt), he said that it was being in a meditative state which helped. Concentration and relaxation is an important element of static apnea attempts, because it allows you to slow down your heart rate which means you use up the available oxygen in your blood more slowly. This can be difficult when your natural impulse is to struggle for air, so if you want to improve your ability to hold your breath you should practice learning meditation first. Using a heart rate monitor you can also learn to slow your heart rate – using the biofeedback to see what works and to identify the cues that show you you are being successful in keeping it down.

Being completely static is also important, so you should allow yourself to float naturally. Moving your muscles will use up oxygen so if you can remain completely still you will last longer.

Lung Capacity

The larger your lungs are, the more air you will be able to hold at once and the better you will be at surviving without breathing.

If you smoke then, this is something you seriously need to address. Smoking seriously diminished your lung capacity so quitting will instantly increase your ability to hold your breath.

Additionally you should also take up running, cycling or another aerobic exercise. An aerobic exercise is defined as any exercise that you continue for an extended period of time, which then causes you to breathe more heavily to take in more oxygen. The more you do this kind of exercise, the more your body will adapt and the better you will become at holding your breath.

This will furthermore work even better if you can practice in high altitudes where the air is thinner. This will force your body to become more efficient and to work better with lower amounts of oxygen.

Finally, practice holding your breath regularly! As with anything, practice makes perfect and the more you practice holding your breath underwater the better you will become at listening to the signs from your body and the more efficient your biology will become.

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