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Published: January 19, 2021
Wondering about whether it is hard to breathe while skydiving is a perfectly normal thing to do. People are generally a bit anxious about flinging themselves out of an airplane in the first place, and when you add being really high up and falling really fast to the mental porridge it makes worrying about how to breathe while skydiving very common. Good news! You can breathe normally while skydiving, so you can stop worrying about it. It is worth breaking it down a bit though, so let's investigate...
Air gets thinner the higher up you go, which means there is less oxygen in the same space. This is why commercial airliners are pressurized. These aircraft travel at over 30,000ft - which is high enough for the air to be too thin for humans to breathe. Skydiving generally happens from around half this height, which means that there is no requirement to take supplemental oxygen with you in the plane. The United States Parachute Association (USPA) rules state that up above 15'000ft you then need to have oxygen, as this is when the air becomes too thin for humans to function properly.
The air is a bit thinner up above 10'000ft where you will jump from, and if you were to hang around up there for ages you might start to notice, but is not a concern for skydivers - as you are not going to be up there for long at all. The goal is to jump out as soon as you arrive! Professional skydivers that jump all day long are proof that the thin air is perfectly fine for people. However, a good tip to remember that many pros practice is to take a few nice deep breaths before you go - not for the O2 but because it has a nice settling and readying feel to it.
Another effect of the air getting thinner is it cools down. It varies, but generally, you lose a few degrees for every 1000ft you go up - which means it can be warm on the ground and a bit nippy at jumping altitude. The same things generally apply here - it is not cold enough to be a problem and you are not hanging around up there anyway. The fact that it gets cooler also kind of adds to the excitement - as an additional sensory reminder that you are approaching the edges of your comfort zone and about to do something spectacular.
Sensory overload is a real thing that happens to people when there is a lot going on. Our brains have a maximum amount of factors they can process at the same time, which means it will prioritize things automatically without you really thinking about what. Skydiving is a lot of things - it is beautiful and amazing and thrilling and challenging all at the same time, which can cause you to become momentarily stupefied with how good it is when you jump for the first time. Yes, for a moment you might forget to breathe right when you jump. No, it is not a problem. For many, exiting is the best part and the first one is something you will never forget. In just a couple of seconds, you will understand that your brain actually works very well in freefall, and that you are breathing again normally without thinking about it.
You can breathe perfectly fine while skydiving and it is nothing to worry about. The things listed above are just minor considerations, but also represent the first step on the path to learning about the amazing sport of skydiving. Don't hesitate to come and join us - we are happy to answer any and all of the questions rattling around in your head about what we do. We want everyone to experience how life-enhancing skydiving can be, and we hope to see you soon!
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