Extreme Underwater Breath-Holding

Extreme Underwater Breath-Holding

This is how people can hold their breath for tens of minutes. Check out our sponsor: https://betterhelp.com/veritasium to get matched with a professional therapist who will listen and help.

A huge thanks to Brandon Birchak for all his help with this video: https://eliteperformancedesign.uscreen.io/

A special thanks to Juan Valdivia for his expert advice on the science of extreme breath holding.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). How your body controls breathing. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. – https://ve42.co/BodyBreathing

Anatomy, autonomic nervous system – statpearls – NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.-a). – https://ve42.co/ANS

Biochemistry, oxidative phosphorylation – statpearls – NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.-c). – https://ve42.co/ncbiATP

Acidosis. Acidosis – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics. (n.d.). – https://ve42.co/Acidosis

Evaluation of respiratory alkalosis. Evaluation of respiratory alkalosis – Differential diagnosis of symptoms | BMJ Best Practice US. (n.d.). – https://ve42.co/Alkalosis

Wilmshurst, P. (1998, October 10). Diving and Oxygen. BMJ (Clinical research ed.). – https://ve42.co/DivingO

López-Barneo, J., Ortega-Sáenz, P., Pardal, R., Pascual, A., & Piruat, J. I. (2008). Carotid body oxygen sensing. European Respiratory Journal, 32(5), 1386-1398. – https://ve42.co/Barneo2008

Jeff, & Huffy. (2022, November 17). The Bolt score test: Measure your breathing volume capacity. Marathon Handbook. – https://ve42.co/BOLT

Lindholm, P., & Lundgren, C. E. (2009). The physiology and pathophysiology of human breath-hold diving. Journal of Applied Physiology, 106(1), 284-292. – https://ve42.co/Lindholm2009

Physiology, lung capacity – statpearls – NCBI bookshelf. (n.d.-c). – https://ve42.co/LungCapacity

Panneton, W. M., & Gan, Q. (2020). The mammalian diving response: inroads to its neural control. Frontiers in Neuroscience, 14, 524. – https://ve42.co/Panneton2020

Baković, D., Eterović, D., Saratlija‐Novaković, X., Palada, I., Valic, Z., Bilopavlović, N., & Dujić, X. (2005). Effect of human splenic contraction on variation in circulating blood cell counts. Clinical and experimental pharmacology and physiology, 32(11), 944-951. https://ve42.co/Bakovic2005

Gooden, B. (1971). The diving response in man, rat and echidna (Doctoral dissertation). – https://ve42.co/Gooden1971

Longest duration breath hold – freediving static apnea (male). Guinness World Records. (n.d.). – https://ve42.co/DivingRecord

What’s the longest a human can hold their breath underwater? BBC Science Focus Magazine. (n.d.). – https://ve42.co/Southwell2023

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Directed by Derek Muller
Written by Felicity Nelson and Derek Muller
Edited by Trenton Oliver
Animated by Ivy Tello
Filmed by Derek Muller
Produced by Derek Muller
Additional video/photos supplied by Getty Images and Pond5
Music from Epidemic Sound

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40 Responses

  1. Calinacho says:

    I enjoy the fact that the subtitles describe Brandon’s laughter as maniacal.

  2. Heisenberg says:

    Learning how to hold your breath that long in that short of a period of time is honestly very impressive.

    • Jenny Ozoa says:

      Very impressive yes but I promise you could do it too! I freedive and you could hit a 3 min breath hold just after a couple of days of training. It feels really surreal when you reach a point of total relaxation wherein not breathing feels just as comfortable as breathing.

    • K says:

      I went an extra minute on top of his time. I don’t exercise at all, which doesn’t help. Also I was in bed but in a state of intense anxiety which probably cancels out. But also slightly drunk. IDK if v that helps

    • Androvsky says:

      ​@Ksomething I noticed is that your entire body breathes through the skin, so immersing is important in this case

    • Zorba Kaput says:

      @K So you passed out. Does it count if you use chemicals (alcohol)? LOL

  3. A. C. says:

    I remember learning lung packing from Bear Grylls. I’d sit at the bottom of the pool as a kid for 3 or 4 minutes at a time. It was one of the most euphoric, meditative things to just be floating in silent weightlessness. There was a point halfway through where you just felt like you could stay down there for another hour as long as you didn’t move.

    • Fredrik Svärd says:

      Sounds not entirely safe

    • A. C. says:

      @fredriksvard2603  after watching this video I now think I was playing with death lmao.

    • Jon Patch Modular says:

      Can relate. Sitting down by the ladder, watching the pool or just closing my eyes, enjoying the cool water and the calmness… Probably one of the only things I did as a kid that even came close to meditation and deliberate relaxation.

    • Guiorgy says:

      Same here. I’d sometimes compete against others and would enjoy watching them breath in and dive again several times while I remained underwater unmoving.

    • Sid Arthur says:

      that’s partly why i can’t swim. when my school would take us for swimming lessons i’d spend the time chilling underwater as long as i could because it was the most peace i ever got. the quiet was nice but i worry my brain might have been shutting down as well because of lack of oxygen

  4. vero says:

    I’ve been consciously breathing the whole video, which is arguably more torture than what Brandon’s doing.

    • Sosuke Aizen says:

      You are now thinking of your breath again. You are now manually breathing.

    • Grassypeak says:

      That’s funny. As a free diver I always find myself holding my breath when I see people under the water. It’s a strange to realize that you haven’t been breathing for some time just because you are watching other people not breathing..

    • Swoost says:

      @Sosuke Aizen that doesnt work on me anymore, but when youre having a panic attack its like youre manually breathing while never catching your breath, even though physically youre fine and do have enough oxygen your heart start beating out of control which increases your need for oxygen. is terrifying. i dont think anyone has ever died from a panic attack, unless they had a heart condition i guess, but it feels like you are going to which just feeds into the self reinforcing cycle

    • Moos says:

      i hate when i concentrate on breathing and then i can’t stop and have that weird paranoia that i need to keep focussing on it or i’ll accidenatally stop…but it takes the littlest distraction and it’s gone. but it’s so weird sometimes. glad i never learned how to control my hearts muscle. xD

  5. MarioneTTe Doll says:

    I’m a freediver, so this video is right up my alley! I have a dry static breath hold of 9:15 and I’m working myself up towards the 10-minute mark. Breathing exercises were mentioned in the video, but I wanted to repeat just how important it is to be in the right state of mind. Things like meditation and yoga are huge, and pranayama (a meditation/yoga focused on breathing) is a great mix of all three.

    • Talking Birb says:

      It’s logical that right state of mind helps when you sit and do nothing, but does it help when you move during freediving?

    • Dr. Kate L says:

      Lots of overlap with meditation. I teach mindfulness meditation and suggest some of the same relaxation techniques—making lists to the alphabet, for one. My personal preference for anchoring (to keep my thoughts from rambling) is to do a “body scan.” This must be why my BOLT was longer than I expected considering my torso is short, I’m not skinny and I’m not particularly athletic lol.

    • TheNadOby says:

      Wait what, 9+ mins of dry, on air?
      That’s wild!
      How is your wet goes?
      Never been freediver but had a 3:15 dry in my youth.
      Never taken personal records in water.

    • Scarlet Tardis says:

      Have you tried the wimhoff method? As a full-time smoker, non yogi and non freediver I got 4 and a half minutes laying on my bed first and only time I tried it. (I definitely didn’t bother with the dammed ice bath neither) I’ve always wondered since then if any freedivers had tried to add it to their workouts?

    • Constantin says:

      @Scarlet Tardis Wimhoff method is hyperventilating to some extent. Don’t add it to freediving.

  6. Mountain Mover says:

    I used to do this as a kid in the bathtub… I would totally relax and stay as still as possible. I was pretty impressed with myself when I made it to over 2 minutes.. I can’t imagine holding my breath for this long. Insane!

  7. Mugi Sports says:

    Cannot believe that this man went through so much trouble just to remind me to manually breathe

  8. Emon MonArch says:

    Brandon was genuinely so encouraging and charismatic

  9. Corruo says:

    That was actually crazy how effective going through the alphabet and pausing between each letter was. I watched once through, and my first breath hold with you on the bed was about 40 seconds. My second one while you were in the pool was just over 2 minutes.

  10. Loo-i-gii says:

    This video and the video about concrete from 5 months ago are especially good at increasing viewer retention. With the “challenge” that is going on during the video, the viewer wants to find out what happens and is more likely to keep watching, even in some rather uninteresting parts. You can see the same happening during MrBeast’s sponsored sections of the video. But especially in educational videos you have to find a balance between keeping the challenge in the mind of the viewer but not making it distracting.

    Another advantage of the two videos is the fact that they are both about rather simple topics, so the given information is easier to understand. In some Veritasium videos I just have to click off because the topic is just too complicated for my brain. 😄

    So yeah, good work you have done there!

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