Can I Dive if Overweight? (Plus Size Scuba Diving)

Last Updated: September 18, 2023

Scuba diving requires you to be at your fittest since diving computers are more adapted to a certain body type considered to be the definition of healthy. While there’s nothing stopping you from diving when overweight, there is a set BMI range one should adhere to, to be able to scuba dive properly.

It’s also important to keep your weight under consideration and consult your doctor first before attempting to scuba dive if you are overweight.

Read on to find out more about the correlation of scuba diving and the diver’s body mass, dangers of diving when obese, and how to make sure you avoid those dangers.

Is There a Weight Limit for Scuba Diving?

fat scuba diver

A BMI of 25 and over categorizes a person as overweight. In this context, there’s no certain weight limit put on a diver by rule, however, you have to be medically checked for fitness (stamina, fat level) before you can be allowed to scuba dive.

How Much Weight Do You Need to Hold a Body Underwater?

As a general rule, to be naturally buoyant you need to take 5% – 10% of your weight in lead. Basically, you should just load enough weight in lead, so that when you are in full scuba gear, you stay afloat at eye level of the water.

The percentage of weight needed will of course be more in case of an overweight person as the proportionate rule suggests.

How Does Being Overweight Affect a Person’s Diving Skills and Experience?

Scuba diving requires you to lift heavy equipment from time to time as well as perform various strenuous activities, for which your stamina and health need to be perfect. If you’re fat and not used to strenuous physical activities such as lifting weights, exercising and swimming, scuba will prove to be more of an exhausting activity than a fun one.

Being obese is also associated with a lot of other health problems, for example diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, hypertension (high blood pressure), and lack of stamina. All these are likely to cause you inconveniences when underwater, possibly ruining your whole experience for the very first time.

Risks of Diving When Overweight

If you’re overweight, naturally you won’t be able to react as fast as a normal healthy person would in case of emergencies, where you either have to swim really fast towards the top or towards another diver.

These instances would put you at a disadvantage because your reflexes won’t be as fast or as efficient, making you not only a danger to yourself, but to your diving buddies as well.

Find Out if You’re Fit to Scuba Dive

Your diving instructor can direct you to a doctor specialized in finding out how compatible your body is with scuba diving and if not, how can you make it so it is. They will screen you through a couple of exercising drills and runs, basic tests to determine your level of fitness and stamina.

They will also be asking or testing you for cardiovascular diseases normally associated with weight gain, in order to prevent any problems while scuba diving.

Health Issues When Diving Obese

Muscle strain and joint stress – if you dive when you’re unfit, there’s a danger of you straining your muscles or putting too much stress on your joints, causing you discomfort and pain while diving, leading to further medical complications if left untreated.

Overweight people have reported a higher likelihood of developing Decompression Sickness (DCS) after a dive, since they have a higher body fat composition. Since diving computers are not adjusted to work with an overweight person’s mass, it’s also likely that the wrong calculations of ascensions can cause you to break dive table limits, thereby causing DCS.

What is Decompression Sickness?

DCS is an illness caused by being exposed to nitrogen during diving, the inert gas which can cause bubbles within your bloodstream leading to irrevocable damages. People with a higher body mass have a higher likelihood of developing DCS when underwater as they have more body fat and tissue in which the nitrogen bubbles settle.

Because DCS can cause permanent injury, it’s best that treatment be applied as soon as possible. The decompression caused by excessive ascension during diving is countered by recompression in a 100% oxygen chamber.

Are Diving Computers Inclusive of Different Body Masses?

Diving computers use the data collected from people in the healthier body weight range to make diving tables, so it’s no surprise that it’s non-inclusive to underweight and overweight people. Since obesity is a prevailing world problem, it’s high time that diving computers start using statistics and data from people of all weight ranges and incorporate that into making the diving tables.

Am I Too Fat to Dive?

In most cases, you’re not too fat to dive as it’s not a matter of weight, it’s a matter of fitness.

Diving will even help you burn some calories while enjoying the underwater world. However, you should visit a medical professional so that they can recommend a fitness plan for you ahead of trying scuba, this will make sure you shed some weight and retain the fitness needed to dive without any issues.

Take swimming lessons – since scuba diving relies on your ability to swim properly, if you haven’t gone for a swim in a while it’s best that you start practicing a few weeks prior to the diving date so that your muscle memory reactivates, making it easier for you to shed weight as well as build up stamina.

Lastly, ask your instructor to prepare a relatively light dive equipment and less-intensive diving site for you; this will make sure you enjoy the experience as well as limit the amount of strenuous activity and exhaustion after a dive.

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