Magician David Blaine shares how he held his breath underwater for 17 minutes. You'd be crazy to try replicating his feat, but you can learn a thing or two about holding your breath longer underwater for your next pool party.
Photo by seanmcgrath.
Update: As many readers have pointed out, you probably should not follow Blaine and Wired's advice on this one. You may win yourself a breath-holding contest, but you also may be gambling with your life. We'd suggest sticking with the tried and true strategy of breathing in and out, regularly, for a very, very long time.
Wired pulls out the key tips from Blaine's TED talk (embedded below). If you want to hold your breath for a longer period of time, Blaine suggests starting by hyperventilating. Here's why:
The buildup of CO2 in your lungs can get just as painful as the lack of oxygen. Purge as much as you can before you begin. Repeatedly exhale and inhale. Hard. Imagine you're trying to blow a toy sailboat away from you.
This also has the potential to be very dangerous; see update below.
Note: You don't (and shouldn't) literally make yourself hyperventilate, but the basic idea - blowing out and sucking in a few times before you try holding your breath - is the nugget of the tip.
Update: Many, many readers have written in to highlight that taking Blaine's method to heart - even if you're not aiming at any records - could be potentially deadly. Reader and lifeguard instructor, water safety trainer, and swimming coach Joseph writes in to say:
The physiological response to hyperventilating does allow a person to holding their breath to feel less pain. The body does not feel the pain associated with the urge to breathe not because of a lack of oxygen(O2) but rather an excess buildup of Carbon Dioxide (CO2). By hyperventilating you are dramatically lowering the level of CO2 in the body delaying the body's stimulation to breathe. The problem occurs because the O2 levels in the blood stream typically do not increase with hyperventilation. A person practicing this may never feel an urge to breathe before their O2 levels are below the point to maintain consciousness. They will pass out underwater and it is only a matter of moments before their body relaxes and attempts to begin breathing normally. If they are not pulled out of the water they will intake water into their lungs and will be in the fast lane to death.
Many aquatic facilities are banning repetitive and competitive breath holding due to the increased risk. View it as like banning running on the pool deck, wet concrete floors very easily cause bad falls when people are running except this can kill as compared to a hospital trip.
You can read more about this here.