Breath Holding Record

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David Blaine breaks world record for holding one’s breath

CHICAGO: 04/30/2008 – David Blaine set a new world record Wednesday for breath-holding - 17 minutes and 4 seconds - fulfilling what he said was “a lifelong dream.”

The feat was broadcast live during “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and the studio audience cheered as divers pulled the 35-year-old magician from a water-filled sphere 8 feet in diameter. Less than two years ago, Blaine went into convulsions during a similar attempt.

“A lifelong dream,” a relaxed-looking Blaine told Winfrey immediately after setting the record. “I can't believe that I did that.”

While still underwater, Blaine worried his heart rate might be too high, saying he “actually started to doubt that I was going to make it” as a result. A lower heart rate helps minimize oxygen consumption.

The previous record was 16 minutes and 32 seconds, set Feb. 10 by Switzerland's Peter Colat, according to Guinness World Records.

Before he entered the sphere, Blaine inhaled pure oxygen through a mask to saturate his blood with oxygen and flush out carbon dioxide. Guinness says up to 30 minutes of so-called “oxygen hyperventilation” is allowed under its guidelines.

In May 2006, as a finale to a week spent in an aquarium with an oxygen mask at New York's Lincoln Center, Blaine tried to set a new breath-holding record. Without breathing pure oxygen beforehand, he tried to break the existing record of 8 minutes, 58 seconds for an attempt of that type.

But he had to be rescued shortly after 7 minutes when he was unconscious and having convulsions.

Blaine has said he was fascinated by holding his breath since he was a child, using the skill to excel in swimming races at a YMCA in [location], only needing to breathe when turning at the wall for another lap.

The endurance specialist has spent more than a month suspended in a glass box by the River Thames in London, was buried alive for a week in a see-through coffin in New York City, and was encased in a block of ice for 63 hours, also in Manhattan.


What we know:

  • Shallow-water blackout is a very real, very dangerous phenomenon that, along with hypoxic training, have been the subject of several Redwoods Group releases this spring
  • This event on The Oprah Winfrey Show headlines, glamorizes, and potentially popularizes incredibly dangerous behavior
  • Dr. Tom Griffiths’ Shallow Water Blackout DVD provides excellent information on this topic

What we must anticipate:

  • Broadcasting such behavior will create copycats – kids who want to try it – not necessarily to set a world record, but to see how long they can hold their breath, and to experience the “thrill”
  • That David nearly died in a previous attempt will not deter many – they perhaps didn’t even hear that part of the commentary – Lifeguards and staff must be especially vigilant to prevent such behavior

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