Wim Hof is a renowned Dutch athlete known for his ability to survive in extremely low temperatures. He is also a motivational speaker who has set Guinness World Records for swimming beneath the ice and having physical contact with ice for the longest time. He attributes his success to the Wim Hof method, where he practices various breathing techniques and cold exposure. 

Is The Wim Hof Method Healthy?

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The Wim Hof method follows a deep commitment to helping you connect with your body while combining breathing techniques such as powerful inhalation, relaxed exhalation, and a mixture of cold therapy. Proponents claim these exercises increase immunity and control sleeping problems while reducing stress and increasing individual focus. However, certain precautions must be considered when following the Wim Hof method.  

Wim Hof Breathing Benefits

According to Wim Hof himself, power breathing releases the inner fire of the person following it. These exercises release more energy within the body and affect the nervous system, changing physiological responses. These breathing techniques create a voluntary short stress response that helps one cope with everyday stress, both mental and physical while making you gain control of your body. [1]

There are 3 pillars of the Wim Hof method; breathing exercises are only one of these. Cold therapy and training the mindset make you stronger and healthier. 

Wim Hof Breathing Method Cold Water

Cold Water Immersion (CWI) is one of the most essential pillars of the Wim Hof Method, also known as cold therapy. This method helps the body improve its recovery procedure while helping you control many processes within your body. You can implement Cold Water Immersion in your home through ice baths and cold showers. Wim Hof’s technique slowly builds exposure to cold temperatures with the practice of CWI as part of the daily routine. [2]

If practiced daily, the benefits induced by cold water immersion last longer. These benefits include:

Improved Blood Circulation

Blood circulation is an important aspect of a healthy body. Without healthy and strong blood circulation, blood flow in the body is affected, which compromises heart health and causes cardiovascular complications. A stressed-out heart can lead to high blood pressure, fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches, and even a heart attack. CWI leads to a healthy heart and a stronger immune system. 

Lowers Inflammation in Muscles

A high-intensity workout leads to microscopic tears in the muscles and their fibers which cause inflammation in the muscle tissues. This delayed muscle onset soreness can be highly painful. The CWI technique reduces muscle inflammation since the cold water decreases damage caused in the muscle while also reducing the swelling. 

Weight Loss

Wim Hof’s cold water therapy can greatly boost weight loss. Practicing daily can increase the metabolic rate by a whopping 16%. When immersed in cold water, the body must work harder to retain the normal internal temperature. The metabolic rate’s rise causes an increase in body temperature, which eventually helps in losing weight. 

Wim Hof Method Science

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Initially, Wim Hof’s explanation was deemed scientifically impossible until Radboud University began research in 2011, which changed the prevalent school of thought. The study showed that by following the technique, Wim Hof could voluntarily control his autonomic nervous system, which was considered an impossible task at the time. [3]

While further research is currently underway involving the Wim Hof Method, the study by Radboud University established the athlete’s credibility in rewriting biology. There are bound to be more upcoming discoveries regarding this technique as Wim Hof continues to work with scientists on his methods. 

Wim Hof Method Explained

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The Wim Hof Method is based on 3 pillars:

  1. Breathing 
  2. Cold therapy 
  3. Commitment 

Initially, the students are taught breathing techniques that they can combine with cold water exposure. These breathing exercises increase oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the body. This helps with depression, anxiety, mood, mental focus, and pain management. 

Later on, Cold Water Immersion is practiced with students, which not only makes the body tougher externally but also has positive effects on internal functioning. [4]

Commitment is important since you must continue practicing breathing techniques and cold therapy daily to achieve the impossible and control your autonomic nervous system. 

How to do the Wim Hof Method

The Wim Hof Method is quite easy to do with the help of a trainer who will help you understand the basic format of the exercises. Depending on your mood and energy, you may change how you practice your techniques daily. Here’s a breakdown of one round of the Wim Hof Method breathing technique: 

  1. Inhale strongly through the nose. 
  2. Make a relaxed exhalation through the mouth. 
  3. Repeat these steps for 30 breaths. 
  4. On the last breath, exhale 90% of the breath and hold the rest in for as long as possible. 
  5. When you think your body needs to breathe, inhale fully and then hold your breath for 15 seconds before releasing it. 

The basic technique includes 3 consecutive rounds of the steps highlighted above. However, with practice, these breathing techniques simply feel like air flowing from and within your lungs. 

What does the Wim Hof Method do?

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People practicing the Wim Hof Method claim it has strong physiological effects. As per scientific research, it lets a person control the voluntary influence on the nervous and immune systems, reduces inflammation in the body, reduces flu-like symptoms, lessens altitude sickness, and improves oxygen delivery while exercising. [5]

The Bottomline

While the Wim Hof Method is very convincing and also has scientific support to back up its cause, there are certain precautions that everyone should follow before starting it. Those suffering from seizures, breathing problems, strokes, and blood pressure issues need to steer clear of this method. Overall, the technique is a wonderful way to increase immunity, strengthen the body, and gain control over your nervous system. 

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Editorial References And Fact-Checking

  • Wim Hof Method. (n.d.). Wim Hof Method breathing. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://www.wimhofmethod.com/breathing-exercises
  • Wim Hof Method. (n.d.-a). Cold Water Immersion (CWI). Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://www.wimhofmethod.com/cold-water-immersion#:%7E:text=The%20Wim%20Hof%20Method%20is,longer%20used%20to%20cold%20conditions.
  • Wim Hof Method. (n.d.-b). The science behind the. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://www.wimhofmethod.com/science
  • Peake, J. M., Roberts, L. A., Figueiredo, V. C., Egner, I., Krog, S., Aas, S. N., Suzuki, K., Markworth, J. F., Coombes, J. S., Cameron-Smith, D., & Raastad, T. (2017). The effects of cold water immersion and active recovery on inflammation and cell stress responses in human skeletal muscle after resistance exercise. The Journal of physiology595(3), 695–711. https://doi.org/10.1113/JP272881
  • Buijze, G. A., De Jong, H. M. Y., Kox, M., van de Sande, M. G., Van Schaardenburg, D., Van Vugt, R. M., Popa, C. D., Pickkers, P., & Baeten, D. L. P. (2019, December 2). An add-on training program involving breathing exercises, cold exposure, and meditation attenuates inflammation and disease activity in axial spondyloarthritis – A proof of concept trial. PLOS ONE, 14(12), e0225749. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0225749

Farah is a veteran writer, season journalist, and copywriting expert with over six years of professional experience in the content creation field. Her forte lies in translating medical jargon and complicated health terms into easy-to-understand language for readers who may not have a medical background. LinkedIn