Igot an e-mail from a reader recently, expressing her concern over a photograph that appeared in a recent issue of Dive Training. Every now and then a “no-no” photo slips past us — maybe the diver is wearing his snorkel on the right side of the mask instead of the left or a way-too-long weight belt is shown dangling. It happens sometimes. And readers take us to task. But this time, rather than point out the problem, the reader simply asked, “What’s wrong with this picture?”
I scanned it carefully, looking for the glaring error that got overlooked. The photo was of a group of wet-suit-clad divers preparing to gear up for a dive. In it, no one had a snorkel attached to a mask incorrectly, or a too-long belt. The scuba units were stowed properly and no one, heaven forbid, had their mask perched on top of their head, or some other obvious “no-no” likely to set off a letter to the editor.
I didn’t get it.
So, I offered to discuss the reader’s concern in a phone conversation. She e-mailed her phone number, I called, and after we exchanged a few polite greetings she asked, “So, what’s wrong with this picture? Do you get it yet?”
I stared harder. Still, nothing jumped out.
“They’re all obese. Or at least overweight.
”Oh, boy. How I wished I hadn’t started the workday by checking reader mail. As I thought to find a way to address her concern — I figured maybe she was upset that we’d depicted plus-size divers in an unflattering way — she went on to explain that she was a diver and healthcare professional and that, in her opinion, Dive Training wasn’t doing enough to drive home the message that diving is a sport that sometimes requires rigorous physical activity. She encouraged me to get the word out to our readers that being overweight puts divers at increased risk of cardiac arrest while diving, which can prove fatal, especially if a heart attack occurs underwater.
“For years this industry has been candy-coating diving as a ‘leisure activity’ or a ‘pastime’ rather than what it is — a sport that requires a certain degree of physical fitness and athleticism,” she said. “And as a result, we’re seeing more and more overweight, unfit divers who may not fully understand they’re at risk. The fact is, divers need cardiovascular fitness, and obesity puts a strain on a diver’s heart — not to mention the increased risk of Type II diabetes, which brings its own set of dangers to overweight divers. You need to start by making divers aware of their Body Mass Index (BMI), why it’s important, and how to manage their weight.”
As we finished our call I thanked her for her input and considered ways to include more health-related articles in the magazine. And then I did what I always do when I have a diving medical question. I consulted Divers Alert Network (DAN) for more information.
Here’s what the experts have to say about BMI, excerpted from the DAN Annual Diving Report 2008 Edition: “Data gathered by DAN in recent years indicate that high BMI values are common in persons involved in incidents. The measures are included where available to allow further evaluation of this trend. As a point of personal awareness, BMI is a reasonable benchmark to monitor. Tracking your own score can help you keep your personal fitness efforts focused.”
So there you have it. The report goes on to suggest alternate ways of gauging your own personal fitness for diving. To obtain a downloadable copy, go to http://www.diversalertnetwork.org/ and click on “2008 DAN Diving Report.”
bmi/. A BMI of 25-29.9 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or greater is considered obese.
So, dear “Anonymous,” I’ve kept my promise. As I mentioned in our phone conversation, we value our readers’ input. While we’re on this subject, we’d like to get your opinion in our Web poll at dtmag.com: Has this industry been candy-coating diving too much as a “leisure activity”?