Is Skydiving a Good Workout?

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Skydiving Has Numerous Advantages Beyond Physical Enhancement

Most skydivers say that skydiving is like an exhaustive Yoga session or like walking your dog for an hour. But is this true, is skydiving a good workout?

Skydiving is a good workout. An average person that weighs 170 lbs (77 kg) and skydives for an hour burns 284 calories (equivalent to 5 calories per minute). Besides burning calories, skydiving strengthens the arms and the core body muscles while improving the sense of balance.

The biggest advantages of skydiving are not the physical benefits but the emotional and mental benefits that only a few other sports are able to provide.

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The Health Benefits of Skydiving

Gone are the days where you needed to go to a gym to get a good workout. Skydiving involves jumping from 10,000 ft, free-falling for a minute with a speed of 120 mph, deploying your parachute, and gliding towards the ground for about 5 minutes. During this time, skydiving can actually burn more calories compared to other exercises and daily activities.

For example, a person that weighs 170 lbs will burn around 203 calories during an hour of practicing Hatha Yoga, and walking the dog for an hour will only burn 243 calories. As a result, skydiving is a great option to stay fit and have fun at the same time.

Physical Benefits of Skydiving

Skydiving can be physically tough specifically when carrying the heavy gears around, keeping the balance in the air, maintaining the right body position during the parachute opening, and steering the parachute to the dropzone. Those activities help to build strong core muscles including the abdominal and back muscles as well as arm muscle strength. 

For example, you need to perform body arching exercises during the free fall to stay in a belly-to-earth position. This can be a challenge specifically for first-timers. For tandem students, it does not require too much effort since they are accompanied by trained instructions. Nonetheless, they often experience a little soreness in the muscles the following day which is also partly due to the strong air pressure difference. 

If you are currently thinking about doing your first skydiving tandem jump, make sure to check out my article about how tandem skydiving works. The article is ideal for skydiving newcomers as it covers all safety aspects and provides practical tips to make your jump as enjoyable and memorable as possible!

Similar to starting any other new sport, skydiving is tiring and exhausting in the beginning but the body will adapt over time. Your muscles will become stronger day by day and your sense of balance will increase steadily.

As skydivers become more experienced, they will notice their increased fitness level in other sports as well.

Mental and Emotional Benefits of Skydiving

Besides the improved fitness level, skydivers experience tremendous mental and emotional benefits. In my opinion, they exceed the physical advantages largely.

First of all, skydiving promotes coordination and mental sharpness. When steering the canopy, skydivers are required to pull many steering toggles at the same time or very quickly after each other. They also need to constantly observe if they are on the right way to the dropzone while observing their environment for other objects in the air.

If skydivers want an even bigger challenge, they can start performing canopy maneuvers such as making turns or rotate in the air. While such maneuvers may look effortless from the outside, they require precise control and technique to perform. If you are interested in understanding more about this, check out my article about how skydivers control their movements and maneuver through the air.

In addition, skydivers can also perform formation stunts which is the supreme discipline in skydiving. Formation jumps are even more physically and mentally challenging because you need to react to the other jumpers and are not allowed to make a mistake.

Another positive effect is that the body increases endorphin, dopamine, and serotonin production. These hormones are known to relieve stress and pain. As a result, these “happy and feel-good” hormones trigger a positive feeling in the person, increasing self-worth and confidence.

Also, the body releases adrenaline when falling at a speed of 120 mph. Being exposed to such a situation and challenge, helps people to become emotionally more stable and less troubled by life’s disappointments and challenges. If someone can handle skydiving, then they will have a positive mindset and will know that they can overcome whatever challenges life throws at them.

Skydiving is also known to increase a person’s assertiveness and helps to develop interpersonal relationships with other skydivers such as the instructors, skydive staff, and other co-skydivers. Because skydivers rely on each other and because they share the amazing skydiving experience, they bond much faster and stronger than in other sports.

If you pick-up skydiving as a regular hobby, you will recognize several other positive impacts on your body and mind. If you want to know more about the 9 advantages of picking skydiving up as a regular hobby, have a look at this article.

Do You Need to Be Physically Fit Before You Can Skydive?

Another advantage of skydiving is that you do not need to be physically fit to skydive – even though it will improve your fitness. You just need to meet the weight limits set by the skydive center and you need to be able to lift your legs up for the landing maneuver.

The tandem instructor will also give you several instructions that you need to follow inside the airplane, during the free fall and landing preparation. You need to follow them diligently to have a safe and smooth jumping experience. 

You also do not need to be a marathon runner or weightlifter to be able to follow the instructions though having strong arms, legs, and core strength would be a great advantage. You will, however, develop those as you continue to jump regularly.

In case of any underlying medical pre-conditions, it would be best to consult a doctor before skydiving. Sometimes having had injuries at the eyes or back can prevent someone from skydiving.

Another way is to find an Aviation Medical Examiner. Aviation Medical Examiners are authorized by the local aviation agency and normally perform physical examinations for pilots and issue medical certificates to them. They can check your health conditions and can guide you about your skydiving fitness (in case you are not sure whether to jump or not).

If you’re just about to start your skydiving journey and find yourself uncertain about whether you meet the necessary requirements to jump, I invite you to read my article about the true skydiving requirements. This comprehensive piece clears up common misconceptions about the physical and legal aspects of skydiving, equipping you with the information you need to determine if you meet all the necessary skydiving criteria.

Workouts That Are Helpful for Skydiving

Indoor Skydiving Is a Good Workout and Is Good Skydiving Training

Aside from the typical skydiving, there is also another type of skydiving that is performed indoors. With its rising popularity, indoor skydiving centers are springing up like mushrooms in most major cities around the world.

Indoor skydiving (also called bodyflight) was originally developed for skydivers to train their free-fall maneuvers inside a vertical wind tunnel. The wind tunnel blows wind upwards at between 80 – 180 mph and thereby pushes the flyer up to 40 ft – depending on the experience level. It thereby simulates the conditions and feeling of freefall.

The advantage of indoor skydiving is that it can be performed in the winter and it is independent of the weather conditions. It is also easier to accumulate freefall time with indoor skydiving. For example, 30 minutes of indoor skydiving accumulates as much freefall time as 30 outdoor skydives from 16,000ft. Skydivers can also train more dangerous maneuvers in wind tunnels without risking their lives.

Last but not least, indoor skydiving is more environmentally friendly if its energy supply consists of renewable energies. If you want to learn about the environmental-friendliness of skydiving and how to reduce the carbon footprint when jumping, check this article.

Indoor skydiving has evolved to become a recreational activity for people who want to experience the feeling of floating on air without jumping out of a plane. However, it is still a strong workout since flyers have to use their complete body including abdominal, back, arm, and leg muscles.

An hour inside the wind tunnel is already equivalent to 60 outdoor skydivers. It burns around 700 calories an hour and therefore is one of the most demanding activities that someone can do. The indoor instructors often burn as much as 2,000 calories a day.

Four Further Workouts That Are Helpful for Skydiving

In order to increase core strength, endurance, and flexibility, several sports complement and support the skydiving workout.

  • Yoga includes many stretching, breathing, and posture exercises. Practicing Yoga before skydiving will help you to breathe properly during the free fall. You are also more likely to release tension before the jump and to be more flexible during the freefall and the landing.
  • Swimming is a whole-body workout that builds endurance, muscle strength, and cardiovascular fitness. It will be beneficial for skydivers since they need to use their entire body to maintain balance in the belly-to-earth or falling head-down position. Swimming also promotes body tension and core muscles.
  • Acrobatics develops strength, coordination, flexibility, and most importantly, a sense of balance. Skydivers can use freestyle acrobatics movements during a free fall or formation jumps.
  • Running builds stamina and improves cardiovascular fitness. It is ideal for skydivers since they have more endurance when carrying around the heavy skydiving equipment throughout the day.

How Skydiving Inspired a 380 Lbs Man to Workout and Lose Weight

On the 26th February 2010, Gary Holm, who weighed around 380 lbs (172 kg) decided to achieve his lifelong dream of skydiving. Since he exceeded the skydiving weight limits that ensure safety, he needed to lose weight to fulfill his dream.

Gary started eating healthy and exercised at least 2-3 times a day. He also created his own blog (“The Flying Fat Guy”) to track his journey and to stay motivated over time. He found many supporters that motivated him to continue even if he was in despair.

In a year, Gary lost a total of 180 lbs (82 kg) and brought down his weight to 200 lbs (91 kg). On his 33rd birthday, he went to Las Vegas together with his friends to celebrate his success and to prepare for the jump.

It was so inspirational that the CBS “The Early Show” co-host Jeff Glor joined him on his big day. Gary and Jeff jumped from a 15,000 ft height together and achieved a speed of 100 mph during their free fall.

It was a year-long weight loss journey for Gary that led him in fulfilling his lifelong dream of jumping from an airplane.

In conclusion, nothing can beat the combination of adrenaline and have a majestic view while losing calories. It’s like hitting two birds with one stone – so I hope you find your motivation to skydive soon.

Skydiving does not only burn calories but also has amazing effects on the human body. If you are interested in knowing more about the 11 incredible effects of skydiving on your body, check this article.

Enjoy your freefall!

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Kai Schmidt

Hi, I'm Kai. The first time I jumped out of an airplane and experienced free fall was one of the most amazing moments of my life. For me, skydiving does not only stand for freedom and independence but being present in the moment and being respectful to others and oneself. Now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

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