A debate recently took place between 2 groups of people to ascertain if scuba diving was a sport or a physical activity. Some believed in strictly applying the dictionary definition, while others had a larger vision on the subject. It is true that if you go by the dictionary definition, you can state that scuba diving is “only” a physical activity as no, scuba diving competitions don't exist. But basing yourself solely on this definition is naïve and simplistic. There are so many factors to take into account in order to provide an answer we can all agree on…
The Cambridge dictionary defines sport as: a game, competition, or similar activity, done for enjoyment or as a job, that takes physical effort and skill and is played or done by following particular rules.
Physical activity is simply to move in order to increase our energy expenditure. A leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, a walk in the forest, or even vacuuming, are all low to medium intensity physical activities.
However, sport is an organized and specialized physical activity, where a one works toward a goal, either alone or in a group, in a recreational or competitive setting. Rules must be respected within the organizational structure. We can also claim that in order for a sport to be, various strategies must be employed to achieve the desired goal. The athlete must use their cognitive skills and decision making abilities during the activity. Therefore, we can claim sport is a physical activity, but not all physical activities are sports. Just like how every square is a rectangle, but not every rectangle is a square.
Anyone who’s ever taken a scuba diving course quickly realizes that there is a strict framework to respect, and ubiquitous rules of safe conduct. Each dive requires gear management, meticulous verification of equipment, and especially, a careful planning of what will occur underwater.
Let’s discuss energy expenditure… It is true that scuba diving will not increase your cardiopulmonary endurance, though it will increase your muscular endurance. Transporting your gear alone will constitute an important energy expenditure. During dives, our legs are greatly solicited. And the simple act of submerging and having your body exposed to 1 to 5 atmospheres (recreational diving only) will exert the body. And let’s not forget the energy spent by simply trying to maintain our core body temperature at 37°C. Heat loss is a major factor even in a dry suit. Finally, our slow and deep breathing used during our dives, which helps us stay relaxed, are very similar to existing relaxation techniques.
Even if the main objective is to submerge underwater, one of the first required exercises is to swim 200m without assistance. If you continue your training, you’ll also be required to tow a swimmer over 100m, swim 800m with mask, snorkel and fins… All these examples demonstrate the physical aspects of scuba diving. Any conscientious diver must perfect their knowledge and maintain a good physical condition, for their own safety, as well as their buddy’s.
It’s obvious it is a sport which resembles a physical activity, especially when performed in a pool-like environment. However, in most cases and especially in cold water, scuba diving can be considered a sport just like rock-climbing and canoeing… I love scuba diving, I love my sport!