How Long Can Freedivers Hold Their Breath?

How Long Can Freedivers Hold Their Breath?

The longest recorded Breath-hold is over 24 minutes, achieved during Static Apnea, after breathing Oxygen beforehand.

Freedivers can hold their breath for an amazing length of time! If you think, the average person can hold their breath for 30-90 seconds, then 24 minutes is incredibly impressive! 

This is, of course, the longest recorded and it is important to remember that every Freediving Discipline varies in duration! For example, the goal of Static Apnea is to achieve the longest breath-hold. This contrasts with Dynamic Apnea, where the goal is to swim the furthest horizontal distance!

Over time, Freedivers can train to improve their breath-holding abilities!

In this article, we will touch on the following questions:

  • What Are The World Records?
  • How Do Freedivers Hold Their Breath So Long?
  • How Do Freediving Courses Teach Breath-Holding?
  • How Do Freedivers Practise Holding Their Breath?

Let’s take a look at the first question!

What Are The World Records?

Below is a table of Static Apnea Freediving Records (STA), both with and without oxygen, for Male (M) and Female (F) record holders!

STA Record HolderWith or Without OxygenTime (Minutes)Year
Branko Petrović (M)Without11:542014
Natalia Molchanova (F)Without9:022013
Budimir Šobat (M)With24:362021
Karoline Mariechen (F)With18:322009

The table above is for Static Apnea. This is holding your breath without movement and the goal is to achieve the longest time possible!

But what about Deep Freedives? As you can imagine, It is harder to hold your breath when you are moving! Deep diving is especially difficult because your body becomes exerted to the pressure at depth!

So how long can Freedivers hold their breath when diving deep?

Below, is a table of the deepest No-Limits Freedive records (NLT), and how long those Freedivers held their breath!

NLT Record HolderDepthTime (Minutes)Year
Herbert Nitsch (M)214m (702ft)4:242007
Tanya Streeter (F)160m (526ft)3:262022

The table above shows some incredible depths! It is hard to believe Herbert Nitsch was 214m below the surface, on one single breath!

How is it possible? Read on to find out!

Freediver in the blue

How Do Freedivers Hold Their Breath For So Long?

Freedivers train their dive reflex, practice breath-holds and get in shape! These three factors help Freedivers hold their breath for so long!

The Mammalian Dive Reflex

The Dive Reflex is hard-wired into our genetic makeup, which is activated when our faces are submerged in water and we begin to hold our breath!

The Mammalian Dive Reflex is made up of certain characteristics, which allow Freedivers to dive for longer and deeper!

There are five main characteristics:

  1. Bradycardia- this is the slowing of the heart rate to conserve Oxygen!
  2. Peripheral Vasoconstriction- this is where blood shifts from the extremities to the core of the body, prioritising vital organs!
  3. Blood Shift- this is linked to the one above, as some of the blood from Peripheral Vasoconstriction shifts to expand the blood vessels around the alveoli, compensating for the pressure increase and reduced lung volume. 
  4. The Spleen Effect- this is where the spleen contracts, releasing more red blood cells into the blood and maximising oxygen efficiency.
  5. Immersion Diuresis- this is known as ‘the need to pee’ and is a side effect of the Dive Reflex. As the pressure increase due to full body immersion, peripheral vasoconstriction and reduced body temperature all increase the production of urine.  

Now you know more about the dive reflex, you might be wondering how it is possible to train your bodily functions.

One example of how Freedivers can do this is by beginning a Static Apnea session with their face submerged while breathing through a snorkel! This exercise can increase Bradycardia, slowing the heart rate and beginning to conserve oxygen before the dive has even begun!

It has also been found beneficial to breath-hold in ice, experimenting with the temperatures to cause Vasoconstriction and Blood shift!

Now you know a bit more about the Dive Reflex, let’s have a look at how Freedivers can practice holding their breath!

Practising Breath-Holding

In order to hold their breath for so long, Freedivers practise exactly that! Just like every other skill, if you want to be really good, you need to put in the work! 

The key to improving your breath-holding abilities is understanding the three pillars and which exercises enhance each one!

Three Pillars of Breath-Holding are:

  1. Normal Breathing Ability
  2. Carbon Dioxide Threshold
  3. Hypoxic Threshold

With abdominal breathing, Carbon Dioxide Tables and Oxygen Tables, the three pillars can be improved, upgrading your Breath-holding to longer durations!

Read our article How Freedivers Go So Deep, to understand more about exercising these three pillars, in order to improve your breath-holding ability!

Last but not least, Freedivers need to get in shape! How long Freedivers can hold their breath depends on their fitness level!

Cardiovascular training has little effect on your ability to hold your breath, however, exercises such as running and cycling are very important for the success of Freediving training.

By exercising, Freedivers improve their fitness level, so they can dive down with as little physical strain as possible. Therefore, Oxygen is conserved and they can hold their breath for longer! 

The amount of time someone can hold your breath depends on the person’s fitness, natural abilities, and how much training they have had!

This is why Freediving Courses are highly recommended, for specialist training enabling you to reach your full Freediving potential.

A man breathing on rock edge

How Do Freediving Courses Teach Breath-Holding?

Freediving courses teach relaxation and breathing techniques, to increase the Freediver’s breath-holding time, allowing them to dive further and deeper!

I have said it before and I will say it again! Freediving courses are the best way to learn specialist techniques in a safe and challenging environment.

Freediving courses are carefully designed to help you access your full potential!

To demonstrate how Freediving courses are a key aspect of how Freedivers can hold their breath for so long, let’s run through some AIDA courses, and focus on breath-holding development!

AIDA Level 1 is an introductory course, therefore there are no requirements, allowing Freediving to be accessible to anyone who can swim over 100m and is over the age of 18, or 16 with parent consent!

Freedivers moving from AIDA Level 1 to Level 2 continue to practise and improve their breath-holds while being introduced to new skills and Disciplines.

By the end of Level 2, each Freediver should be able to do the following:

  • 2 minutes Static Apnea
  • 40 meters Dynamic Apnea
  • 12 meters Constant Weight
  • Theoretical Exam

As you can see from the list of requirements, AIDA Level 2 demands a long breath-hold of two minutes! This is achieved by applying a variety of skills to both confined and open water sessions, pushing the Freediver out of their comfort zone. 

By challenging themselves, Freedivers can achieve new Personal Bests and qualify to pass the course!

Level 3 further develops previous skills, learning how to minimise risks while diving deeper and longer. AIDA Level 3 is where training tables are used, to improve breath-holding! 

Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen tables are introduced and put to practice by generating breathing patterns and exercises. This trains your ability to withstand Carbon Dioxide levels and adapt to working in Hypoxic (low Oxygen) conditions! 

By the end of Level 3, the Freediver should be able to:

  • 2:45 minutes Static Apnea
  • 55 meters Dynamic Apnea
  • 24 meters Constant Weight Apnea
  • Theoretical Exam

So you can see already, moving from Level 2 to Level 3, the Freediver should now be able to hold their breath for 45 more seconds! 

I know, 45 seconds does not sound like a lot! But when you holding your breath… it really is! It is even longer than most people can even hold their breath at all!

Freediving is very impressive, and the time that some Freedivers can hold their breath is nothing short of unbelievable! However, what we are trying to show here, is that with the right training and a lot of hard work, anything is possible! 

One step at a time, Freedivers gradually add time and depth to their dives!

Freediver swimming up to the surface

The Master Freediver, AIDA Level 4, is where things start to get really serious! Developing skills throughout all Disciplines, Master Freedivers are challenged in both the classroom and water sessions!

Level 4 introduces full body warm-ups, why diet is important and advanced skills such as packing and reverse packing to utilise your vital lung capacity. 

By the end of Level 4, you should be able to:

  • 3:30 minutes Static Apnea
  • 70 meters Dynamic Apnea
  • 32 meters Constant Weight
  • Theoretical Exam

These requirements show another additional 45 seconds of breath-hold for the Static Apnea!

How Do Freedivers Practice Holding Their Breath?

Freedivers practice:

  • Carbon Dioxide Tables
  • Oxygen Tables
  • Wet Apnea
  • Dry Apnea
  • Abdominal Breathing

The list above is just a few examples of what Freedivers can do to improve and practice their breath-holding.

Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen Tables, as mentioned above, are designed to increase Carbon Dioxide Tolerance and force your body to adapt to functioning within a Hypoxic (low oxygen) state. 

Freedivers use these tables to perform numerous sets of varied breathing and apnea times, carefully designed to train breath-holds.

Another really good example of a great exercise Freedivers do to practice their Breath-holds, is Dry Static Apnea. 

Dry Static Apnea is the act of holding your breath on land, without making any movement! The purpose of this exercise is to train the mind and body to enter a relaxed state to consume less Oxygen.

a Dry Apnea walk is also known as a good way to train breath-holds. This is where the Freediver holds their breath, while walking on land, usually while using the Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen Tables!

Don’t Forget Your Dive Insurance!

Before you go out on any dive trip or holiday, it is essential to make sure you have insurance that covers you if something goes wrong. Check out our dive insurance article for more information.

Or go straight to these dive insurance company websites:


Diver Alert Network (DAN)

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Final Thoughts

This article has introduced you to some of the record breath-holds in both Static Apnea and No-Limits Freediving.

Freedivers can hold their breath for so long, due to fitness and training! There are numerous exercises that Freedivers can practice, such as abdominal breathing, Carbon Dioxide and Oxygen Tables, and both Wet and Dry Static Apnea!

But remember, if you are new to Freediving, everybody starts somewhere! With practice and hard work, you too could hold your breath for over 3 minutes!

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Bethany Nyquist

Bethany is a writer, an Environmental Scientist and Dive Master, exploring the underwater world. Practising Underwater Photography, Bethany aims to raise awareness for and help protect marine life.

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