For about the length of a primetime sit-com — minus the commercials — Tom Sietas, a free diver from Germany, can hold his breath under water.
In fact, with his time of 22 minutes and 22 seconds, Seitas, 35, recently blew his own world record of 17 minutes 28 seconds out of the water.
While your first question might be “Why would anyone attempt to do this?”, your second question might be “How can he do this?”
First off, the Daily Mail reports Sietas has a lung capacity 20 percent larger than the average man for his size. As you might imagine, Sietas has to train for this. He practices holding his breath while still and also while swimming. Other elements include training in pressure chambers and practicing “zen-like” relaxation. This is just leading up to the event.
The Daily Mail reports the day of he doesn’t eat for five hours, which will slow his metabolism, and will employ a breathing technique before submerging himself to maximize oxygen efficiency:
He will begin by inhaling and exhaling slowly, before breathing deeply from the diaphragm for a final inhalation.
Leading exponents like him may take a last gulp of air by performing a manoeuvre known as ‘packing’. This involves gulping like a fish at the end of an inhalation to squeeze in even more oxygen.
These days, competitive breath-holders are allowed to use pure oxygen from a tank to help them last longer underwater by oxygenating their blood more than if they just breathed in normal air.
This gives them greater reserves to draw on as the agonising minutes tick by and the oxygen in their blood leaches away.
The Daily Mail also writes that in holding his breath under water, as opposed to on land, he has the “diving reflex” going for him. All mammals have a diving reflex, which constricts some blood vessels and slows heart rate. The body goes into this mode to send the most oxygen it can to the brain and heart.
Should anyone attempted to this? Physiologist Claes Lundgren at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine told the Daily Mail “it is not recommended at all.”
Here is footage of Sietas setting a previous world record in 2008. Watch as he tries to stay under as long as possible:
Sietas’ latest record, one of many, was set at the end of May in Changsha, China. Deeper Blue, a website that chronicles the news in the deep diving world, reports Ricardo Bahia, who also practices static apnea, and Sietas were in China for a competition being promoted on Chinese television.
Check out more details in the Daily Mail’s full article on holding one’s breath for such a length of time here.