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Mammalian Diving Reflex and Freediving

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

The mammalian diving reflex is a perfect adaptation mechanism of our body, left over from a period of our evolution. The diving reflex, as well as the swimming reflex, is a natural part of human nature and can be observed in newborns and infants in the aquatic environment.



Mammalian Diving Reflex is a subject that is explained in great detail in free diving trainings. This is a natural skill that we all have, so you will use this ability while diving. In order to give you an idea in general terms, we will talk about some changes that occur in our body without going into too much detail.


Although most mammalian species have lost most of the biological bonds that connect us to the oceans (that is, our lungs do not work very well underwater), we are still naturally connected to our ocean-dwelling ancestors. The diving reflex is a remnant of some of the traits that allowed past relatives to survive in water. It is triggered when a mammal's face is submerged into water.


- a decrease in heart rate occurs,

- narrowing of blood vessels occurs,

- the lungs and the air in them are compressed due to the increased pressure in depths. As the lungs compress, the blood vessels around the alveoli expands and filled with blood to compensate for the reduced volume of the lungs.

- Spleen contraction, which is a part of the diving reflex, releases additional blood to the body and helps to increase the amount of oxygen transport to our body.


The mammalian diving reflex is an evolutionary legacy that allows us to dive underwater for extended periods of time. As free divers, the mammalian diving reflex is important for staying underwater for long periods of time. It can be strengthened over time to improve diving performance with experience and exercises.




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