a female snorkeling on the surface

Does A Snorkel Negatively Impact Breathing?

As a recreational exercise, snorkeling is hard to beat. The tropical locations and crystal clear waters tend to make people want to try it. If you’ve never done it before, I’m guessing a load of questions go through your head.

It seems like a fantastic experience, and indeed it is, and you’ll be wondering about the mask fogging, as well as leaking. The snorkel and breathing don’t tend to get thought about a lot.

If you’re fit and active it probably won’t even factor but for many, the thought of putting a snorkel in their mouth gets them wondering. If you’re unfit or have a chest infection then it seems sensible to wonder about the breathing aspect of snorkeling.

I mean, how easy is it to breathe while on the surface through a tube. It’s not something you try a lot in real life. So, does a snorkel negatively impact your breathing?

Breathing through a snorkel doesn’t significantly impair your ability to draw breath. Snorkels don’t have restrictions and are wide enough in gape to allow for the adequate passage of air with deep breaths. Any breathlessness will come from exercise and repeated diving while holding your breath.

For many it’s a life ambition, to take a snorkel and mask and glide across the surface observing the spectacular aquatic marine life while not having to lift your head continually.

It’s not without its share of problems though. Many will find they get water in their mouth, possibly even inhaling some water.

The activity isn’t always as trouble-free as pictures make it look, but it’s certainly not difficult, and largely depends upon your own temperament.

For my part, I rarely think about the science or act of breathing. Some experience and you probably won’t either. It’s not quite as simple as jamming a tube in your mouth and easy peasy breathing, but the issues aren’t insurmountable.

Proper breathing technique is one of the focal points for snorkeling, but it isn’t that difficult to master.

Is It Difficult To Breathe Through A Snorkel?

If you are fit and active, not particularly. It may feel a little strange, but there aren’t a great deal of problems to deal with. If you can swim without difficulty, or without shortness of breath, you will be fine snorkeling.

An issue that a new snorkeler should be made aware of is that as you take a breath, some of the air that was previously exhaled on the previous breath will still be in the snorkel.

It’s important to take deep shallow breaths so you get as much fresh air as possible.

Short breaths and indefinite snorkeling can lead to a build-up of carbon dioxide in the system. It’s not a huge issue normally, just something to be aware of. Longer tubes and fast, shallow breaths will exacerbate this problem.

a female snorkeling on the surface with fish

Therefore it’s advisable to at least get some fresh air lungfuls quite regularly.

The only other issue is water in your mouth. It’s likely to be inevitable at some point. As a beginner, it’s best to take things slowly and move at a pace where you get comfortable with the equipment.

Breathing is something you do not only naturally but involuntarily. Your body will force lungfuls of air in if it needs it, so always remain mindful of not creating the problem rather than curing it.

Water is denser than air, thus moving it requires more effort. This applies to everything in the water. Humans aren’t particularly aerodynamically designed, but some people may find breathing in the water a little more troubling than normally.

Your chest is expanding against the pressure of the water as you breathe. So if you have lung issues, this something else to be slightly aware of.

The biggest issue is more likely to be jaw ache with a snorkel than wondering how the breathing works. Your lips will be needed to keep a seal and stop water ingress to the mouth so prepare for a little jaw ache depending upon the excessive nature of the snorkeling.

Final Thoughts – Parting Waves

If you are fit and healthy then breathing should not be an issue. Depending upon your level of vigor in the water, the act of breathing through the snorkel is fine.

Make sure you take deep, slow breaths so that carbon dioxide doesn’t build up in the tube, and the snorkel has a wide enough gape so as to allow the passage of air.

Obviously, if you have breathing issues I’d consult a doctor, but you can always buy a snorkel and try it before you get in the water.

I’ve never had a problem, but everyone is different.

You don’t really need to worry about having trouble getting air if all you’re going to do is glide about on the surface.

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