Kate Winslet Held Her Breath Underwater for More Than 7 Minutes While Filming the 'Avatar' Sequel

She set a new record, beating one previously held by Tom Cruise.

Kate Winslet
Getty Images.

Tom Cruise may be known for doing his own stunts, but Kate Winslet is giving him a run for his money. In her commitment to preparing for her role in Avatar: The Way of the Water, Winslet set a new record for a person holding their breath for a film. She remained underwater for seven minutes and 15 seconds, beating Cruise's previous record, reported Total Film (though, it's unclear if there's an official record book for this unique category).

"I have the video of me surfacing saying, 'Am I dead, have I died?'" Winslet told Total Film in a new interview. "And then going, 'What was [my time]?'" she continued. "Straight away I wanted to know my time. And I couldn’t believe it."

It seems as though Winslet's competitive nature pushed her to test her limits. "Well, I didn't have to hold my breath for over seven minutes," explained Winslet in the recent interview. "It's just that the opportunity to set a record presented itself. I wanted to break my own record, which was already six minutes and 14 seconds. And I was like, 'Come on!' So I smashed my own record by a minute."

Winslet is "a demon for prep," James Cameron told the New York Times while discussing the upcoming film in October. "She latched onto the free diving as something that she could build her character around," he continued, explaining that her character grew up underwater. "So she had to be utterly calm underwater, and it turned out that she was a natural."

Deep-sea sequences in the new film required many cast members to get comfortable underwater and train to hold their breath for minutes at a time. That includes Zoe Saldaña, who managed about five minutes, and Sigourney Weaver, who reached six and a half minutes, according to the Times interview.

"The first step is you fake it till you make it: You tell your boss, 'Yeah, absolutely, I’m so excited,' and then it’s complete horror, like, 'What am I going to do?' Saldaña told the New YorkTimes. "At best, you’re going to walk away with a brand-new aptitude, but I was scared."

"It is extremely challenging to hold you breath underwater for such a long period of time," says Joy Miles, an ACE-certified group fitness instructor and endurance coach. While Winslet's feat shows she has "extreme control with regulating [her] breathing and carbon dioxide output," Miles doesn't recommend just anyone trying something like this on their own.

"Holding your breath for longer than two minutes can potentially decrease oxygen flow to the brain, causing fainting and in extreme cases, brain damage," she says. " In the heart, a lack of oxygen can cause abnormalities of rhythm and affect the pumping action of the heart."

So, holding your breath underwater for minutes at a time isn't exactly a skill most people need to learn, but swimming is great for your lungs. It forces the body to use oxygen more efficiently, Earl Walton, owner of Tailwind Endurance in New York City, previously told Shape. What's more, swimming teaches the lungs to take in more fresh air on every inhale and expel more carbon dioxide on every exhale.

Swimmers even move more air in and out of the lungs while relaxed than runners, according to a study in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. So, if you've been looking for a low-impact cardio and strength training exercise to add to your routine, consider hopping in the pool for a few laps. Just leave the seven-minute breath-holding to pros like Winslet.

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