Aleix Segura Vendrell set a record for the breath hold in 2016. To be precise, it was the longest static apnea breath-hold with pure oxygen pre-breathing. This means that Vendrell breathed pure oxygen before holding his breath, which allowed him to extend the duration. This category is separate from the “no oxygen assistance” static apnea records, in which the individual does not use any external oxygen source before holding their breath. As a result, he held his breath for an astounding 24 minutes and 3.45 seconds.
The world record for longest breath hold
Vendrell’s record was set in the static apnea category with pure oxygen pre-breathing, which means he inhaled pure oxygen before holding his breath. This technique saturates the blood and tissues with oxygen, allowing for a longer hold compared to normal air intake. Pre-breathing pure oxygen is not allowed in the “no oxygen assistance” static apnea category. In that category, athletes rely solely on their natural ability to hold their breath.
Freedivers like Vendrell undergo physiological adaptations that enable them to hold their breath for extended periods. One such adaptation is the mammalian dive reflex, a set of responses triggered by immersion in water. This reflex causes the heart rate to slow down (bradycardia), blood vessels in the extremities to constrict (peripheral vasoconstriction), and the spleen to release more oxygen-rich red blood cells into the bloodstream. These adaptations help conserve oxygen and prioritize its delivery to vital organs, such as the brain and heart.
Training for greatness
Another crucial adaptation is the ability to tolerate high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the body. As CO2 levels rise during a breath hold, the urge to breathe becomes more intense. Freedivers train to withstand this urge, allowing them to maintain their breath-hold for longer durations.
Holding one’s breath for an extended period is not without risks. Hypoxia, a state of oxygen deprivation, can lead to loss of consciousness, brain damage, or even death. Therefore, it is essential that freedivers and those attempting long breath-holds take necessary precautions and undergo proper training to minimize these risks.
Safety personnel and medical staff supervise freediving competitions and record attempts to ensure that athletes receive immediate assistance if any complications arise. Additionally, freedivers often follow specific training regimens, gradually increasing their breath-hold durations and practicing techniques to manage the physical and mental challenges associated with this feat.
Source: “What It Takes to Hold Your Breath for 24 Minutes (Yeah, It’s a Thing)” — Wired