In 2012, Danish free diver Stig Severinsen set a new world record for holding his breath underwater [source: Grenoble]. How long did he stay under? We'll give you a hint: You are way, way low. The man held his breath for 22 minutes. Twenty-two minutes!
Underwater breath-holding contests are a classic, if controversial pool game. The rules are simple. Two or more people count to three, take a deep breath, submerge themselves, and see who can stay under the longest. When kids play the game, it's usually harmless, since no one tries to hold their breath for a dangerous amount of time. Tragically, that can change as kids get older.
The biggest danger of breath-holding contests involves forced hyperventilation. By taking a series of large forced breaths (which people tend to do before submerging), you can expel CO2 from your system. The lack of oxygen and buildup of CO2 in your blood is what triggers the impulse to breathe. By artificially lowering your CO2 level before entering the water, you buy yourself extra time before having to breathe.
Unfortunately, that technique can also backfire. As oxygen levels decrease, you run a greater and greater risk of losing consciousness. If you lose consciousness underwater without close supervision, you can drown [source: Canadian Red Cross].
So if you are going to play a breath-holding game, please keep it safe and fun. And if you feel dizzy after a couple of rounds, switch to a different game.