The Wim Hof Method; the science and steps

One of the hottest names in the health and fitness world right now is Wim Hof (The Iceman). Wim Hof preaches a simple method along with radical claims about the health benefits.

What is the method? What has science proven so far? How do you do it?

Wim Who?

Wim Hof is an eccentric Dutch man who holds several world records for things that are generally deemed impossible. One of them includes having his body submerged in ice for 1 hour and 52 minutes. If you listened to Wim Hof 10 years ago you may have dismissed him as a charlatan who was pawning off ancient Yogi wisdom as his own. However, Wim Hof has since done something that all other “miracle workers” have not done. Science has been invited to look into his techniques, and so far science seems to be legitimizing him.

What is the science?

There are several claims that Wim Hof has made that have been proven true, and there are some that have not yet been researched. The research is still in its infancy, but as the method gains more popularity, it is reasonable to assume that more research will be commissioned. What are some of the assertions that have tested positively?

1) The fundamental claim that Wim Hof makes is that you are able to control your sympathetic nervous system. Up until now, this was considered to be impossible, however, this study has shown that through the Wim Hof method, this is possible.

2) Another claim that Wim Hof has made is that your body temperature can be controlled. Again, this was claimed to be impossible. However, when the world record for the longest ice bath was created, Wim Hof’s body temperature was measured at the same time. The results are that Body temperature regulation is indeed possible.

3) The benefits of cold showers are quite well documented, but Wim Hof goes a step further by jumping into lakes of -20  degrees, and thus a study has shown a correlation between Frequent Extreme Cold Exposure and Brown Fat and Cold-Induced Thermogenesis.

4) The final outlandish claim that has shown some scientific merit is the tolerance of Wim Hof adherents in their tolerance when exposed to illness. This study shows the link between,  meditation, breathing exercises, and cold exposure and illness.

One thing that Wim Hof asserts that hasn’t been proven yet is that 95% of illnesses can probably be cured by his method. Who knows where this will lead, many are skeptical, but time and science will tell. 

A Caveat

It is important here to note that the science of this method is still in its infancy. You can see from the studies above that there are some nice 6To run away with the idea that this is a panacea isn’t a wise move. The initial tests seem positive, but to state that everything can be cured via this method is not even remotely close to what has been proven.

How to do the method

The method can be split into three sections.

  • Breathe
  • Exercise
  • Cold Water immersion

Breathe

The process is simple, and there are many clips of Wim mentoring people online if you need a visual example.

Step 1. Sit or lie in a relaxed position. Do not do this around water, or when operating any machinery. Just be in a safe relaxed area.

Step 2. Take in 30 – 40 deep diaphragmatic breaths. Fill your lungs, expand your stomach all the way. Then exhale, not all the way, but just enough to be comfortable.

Step 3. Release all the oxygen from your lungs. Hold this for as long as you can. Time it.

Step 4. Take one large breathe in and hold for at least 15 seconds.

Step 5. Repeat for 3 or 4 sets.

Things to expect. 

When you are taking the sharp breaths in, you will feel lightheaded, and a tingling in your body.

The time that you can exhale and hold it will increase each iteration that you do. This is a sign that your body is getting more and more oxygenated.

You may feel elation and a surge of energy.

Exercise

Wim Hof essentially recommends a few sets of yoga poses combined with deep breaths. Another option is on your final set of breaths when you exhale and hold you can drop down and do as many pushups as you are capable of.

This should all be done with the idea of progressing, either in number of pushups or in how well you execute the yoga poses.

Cold Water Immersion

This is the unpleasant part. It involves you getting into a freezing cold shower. If you have just done the breathing ritual above, many people claim that they experience no pain from the shower.

Gradually building up to a long cold shower might be necessary for some, but the effects of a cold shower go from deep physiological benefits to just feeling invigorated.

Wrapping Up

This method is certainly fascinating to use, and everybody should try it even for just a month or so. The science is still being gathered, but the results of the adherents to this strategy seem to give us an early indication that this method is here to stay.

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The Wim Hof Method; the science and steps