If you are into things like cold exposure, breath work, and health optimisation, you have likely heard of Wim Hof and his method. However, you might not know for sure what it is, how to do it correctly, and most importantly – if it is even legit!
This method has been tried by many celebrities, so maybe there is something to it. Some of the stars who have allegedly tried and practised the Wim Hoff Method (WHM) are:
and the list goes on…
So what is it about this method that is so captivating?
That’s exactly what we will dive into today, so let’s take a look!
Who is Wim Hof?
Wim Hof – also known under his alias ‘the Iceman’ – originally comes from the Netherlands. He was born in 1959 and his journey to developing a breathing and meditation technique aimed at improving both physical and mental health began when he realized that he could withstand crazy cold temperatures while swimming in a frozen lake.
After that discovery, Wim Hof broke a bunch of different world records related to cold exposure, like swimming under the ice for longer than 66 meters. When asked how he was able to do these feats, he credited his breathing technique, which he then named the famous ‘Wim Hof Method’.
What is the Wim Hof Method?
As mentioned earlier, the Wim Hof Method focuses mainly on breathing and meditation, although it actually consists of 3 different components: breathing, meditation, and cold exposure.
Let’s take a look at each one of these in more detail.
The breathing exercise that is most commonly known as the Wim Hof Method consists of taking deep inhales, followed by a very short and shallow exhale. Wim Hof does this about 32 times, then he holds his breath for as long as possible.
This breathing technique allows you to take up a lot of oxygen, which helps your body be able to hold your breath for longer periods of time.
After holding your breath, start breathing normally. Repeat the whole exercise, if you wish.
Here is a video of Wim Hof himself guiding you through the breathing exercise:
When you start the Wim Hof breathing technique, it is also highly recommended to gradually start exposing yourself to cold temperatures, like starting the day with a cold shower or cold plunges. Not only is this said to boost your immune system, but it is also meant to help with inflammation.
Wim Hof also puts emphasis on meditation because not only does it improve your mental state, but also helps reduce stress which in turn, increases your physical health.
The combination of these 3 steps is what essentially makes up the entire Wim Hof Method, but let’s take a closer look at all the benefits.
Benefits of the Wim Hof Method
There are many benefits connected to the Wim Hof Method, including:
improved immune function
increased athletic performance
higher cold tolerance
But how accurate are these alleged benefits?
The science behind the Wim Hof Method
There has not been a huge number of studies conducted on the Wim Hof Method yet, but there is one study done in 2014 in cooperation with Wim Hof, where his method was tested against a control group over 10 days. After 10 days, both groups were administered endotoxins, which usually trigger an immune response in the body.
After just 10 days, the group practising the WHM not only had profoundly increased plasma epinephrine levels, but the anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 increased more rapidly than in the control group. Flu-like symptoms were also lower in the WHM group than in the control group, hinting at its efficacy.
The study found that an individual was able to activate the sympathetic nervous system using the WHM.
Apart from that study, there have been various other studies done on the efficacy of cold exposure, meditation, and controlled hyperventilation, showing that they do help with immune system function and stress levels.
Is the Wim Hof method safe?
Now, the last question you may ask yourself is: is this method safe?
The short answer is yes, but…
As with any controlled hyperventilation, you need to be in a safe place, preferably sitting or laying down. Under no circumstances should you be driving a vehicle or be submerged in water (like the bathtub) while doing this breathing technique, since you might become dizzy and could even pass out.
Some people have safety concerns due to exposure to cold temperatures, but unless you are staying in the cold for way too long, cold exposure seems to be quite beneficial to people.
Of course, part of the Wim Hof Method is commercialized, which leaves room for doubt in people’s minds, but for the most part, the information regarding the WHM is easily accessible for free online.
All in all, most claims that Wim Hof made have been supported by various studies.
Fun & interesting facts about Wim Hof
He got his nickname by breaking a bunch of world records related to cold exposure
He ran a half-marathon above the Arctic Circle, barefoot and only wearing shorts
He swam under ice for more than 66 meters
He hung off a 2000-meter cliff on one finger
He ran a full marathon through the Namib Desert without drinking water
and much more!
The Wim Hof Method is an interesting way of boosting your health that may just live up to its hype. Generally, you can’t really go wrong when combining breathing exercises, cold exposure, and meditation, and each has been proven to increase mental and physical health and performance. Of course, you don’t have to follow all three of Wim Hof’s principles at once, you can start out with one of them and add on to it if you feel like it. All in all, he seems to be living proof that his method is effective, and it could be a fun new challenge to try.
Hungry for knowledge? Here is more
Check out this short and informative video about the method from the Bloomberg Quicktake YouTube Channel. It includes the interview with the first certified Wim Hof Method instructor.
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