Do You Have to Be Physically Fit to Skydive?

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Do You Have to Be Physically Fit to Skydive?

…well, y’know what? That depends.

If you’re already sure that you fit the height and weight requirements but you still aren’t sure if you’re sufficiently physically fit to skydive, you might be extra-curious because you know you have some unique considerations to factor in. We jump regularly with new skydivers who–to put it mildly–aren’t gym bunnies (and those folks generally do just fine), but there are some physical fitness shortfalls that can become a problem on a skydive. Let’s go over ‘em, shall we?

1. “Can skydiving cause a heart attack?”

Yes it can. Medicine has long held that folks with known cardiovascular issues should stay well clear of any activity that can elevate the heart rate steeply and quickly; skydiving certainly counts. Heart rates can shoot up to somewhere around 140+ just prior to and during the exit out of the airplane, which is dangerous territory for a weak heart. Most people love the feeling, but not everyone’s body can withstand that if they have some condition related to heart or blood pressure. If you have a known heart condition or congenital breathing problems, there’s also a chance that you won’t be able to breathe properly while cruising around up at altitude in an unpressurized cabin.

The question to ask is this: Can your body cope with the stress of an accelerated heart rate for an extended period of time?

2. “Can skydiving cause vertigo?”

You know the answer to this question already, we’re rather sure, and you just need someone to tell you straight-up: Yes. Skydiving can cause vertigo, and it can definitely spark up an episode in a person with a history of vertiginous reactions to dynamic movement. If driving up a twisty mountain road is enough to kick off the spinnies, you’re very likely not going to make it through a skydive with your equilibrium intact. We’re so sorry to bear that bad news.

3. “Is skydiving bad for my back?”

A tandem skydive is likely to be gentler on your back than any number of other athletic activities, but keep in mind that the version of “bad back” you walk in with is going to predicate the situation. If your back is just, like, twingey, you’re probably not going to experience anything untoward. If, however, you’ve had a spinal fusion with plates and/or screws, things are a bit different. Your hardware it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t jump, but the consequences of a (rare) hard opening or a (rare) bad landing could be exacerbated. If you have a rod in your lower spine, the same unlikely eventuality could break several vertebrae.

4. “What if my doctor says it’s OK for me to jump?”

That’s awesome! You should know, though, that most doctors don’t know the first thing about the actual risks and stresses of skydiving. (If your doc isn’t a skydiver, you’ve likely done more research at this point than s/she has!)

A skydiving doctor will know about the dynamics of the airplane ride, the altitude exposure, the adrenaline rush during exit and freefall, the opening of the parachute, the circulatory dynamics of the parachute ride and the way we land. If your situation needs further research before you feel confident jumping, ask to be referred to a doctor who skydives–or call an Aviation Medical Examiner (a doctor specializing in pilots). To find one, try clicking here and looking up an AME in your area. An AME is likely to be able to give you some advice and point you in the right direction.

5. “So I have to do some homework, huh?”

Yes, dear reader. If you have a condition like those described above, the onus is on you to do a little research and determine where you sit on the ol’ risk-ometer. Skydiving is all about intelligently, consciously calculated risk, after all. Take that responsibility and run with it, and we’ll see you in the sky as soon as you’ve made the call!

If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to help in any way we can.

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