With the city’s urban density and clusters of skyscrapers, you might not expect Chicago skydiving centers to exist at all, much less have a growing and passionate customer base. But they do—spots such as Chicagoland Skydiving Center and Skydive Midwest are about an hour’s drive from downtown, so city dwellers can get a taste of open air while staying close to home, and offer jumps almost every day of the week. Those new to skydiving surely have a million questions before their first jump, most of which are best answered by the staff at the skydiving center of their choice. But since the human body reacts in predictable ways to a free fall from an airplane, new jumpers would be wise to take some advice from the world of science for the best experience possible.Don’t Jump on an Empty StomachIn an emergency—whether real or perceived—the release of adrenaline causes a cavalcade of changes in the human body. Heart rate and blood pressure increase, pupils dilate and vision sharpens, and muscles contract. As the hormone shifts energy away from the stomach to the muscles, it disrupts digestive processes, which can result in mild nausea. For this reason, skydiving experts recommend eating a light meal before skydiving, since fasting can make you feel shaky and lightheaded, and a large meal in your stomach might not stay there for long.Spring for the Video PackageThe release of adrenaline during an emergency situation stimulates the vagus nerve, which causes a release of the neurotransmitter called norepinephrine. A little norepinephrine actually boosts memory, but too much can destroy memory formation. Combine that with the fact that a single skydive takes less than 10 minutes from jump to landing—not to mention around 60 seconds of free fall—and you’ve got a recipe for a forgotten memory. Most skydiving centers offer photo and video packages to document the experience, so you can watch and re-watch your exhilarating descent after the adrenaline has worn off.Bring a New Love Interest AlongIn addition to kicking in when we’re cold or afraid, adrenaline is also a key part of love and attraction. This explains why certain people can make our hearts race and our palms sweat. But research has shown that the reverse is also true: experiencing an adrenaline-fueling event with another person can actually boost your attraction to them. One study showed that when a woman gave a man her number after they crossed a high, rickety bridge to reach her, they were much more likely to call her than those who had crossed a safe bridge, and another found that non-romantic partners who rode roller coasters together found each other more attractive afterward. The lesson here: when it comes to romance, plummeting to earth together at 120 miles per hour beats out dinner and a movie any day.
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