Is Wim Hof Legit

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Wim Hof Breathing Technique And Method: Are They Legit? A Scientific Critical Review

Sometimes it takes a crazy (?) old (?) Dutch man to completely break down a scientific concept that was held true for years and years and nobody (sane) would have ever thought about questioning.

This man is Wim Hof aka the Iceman who from “playing” with ice as a way to support his family (everyone has to pay the bills, some do it in creative ways), an entire biology chapter has to be rewritten.

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Who is Wim Hof And Why Should You Care​

Wim Hof is an eccentric man from that tiny little country in Europe called the Netherlands (where incidentally I happen to have been living in for the past 4 years).

After the death of his wife who left him to deal with 4 children, Wim entered a stage of depression that it is really easy to understand. Then he found comfort in something everyone else would be far to associate to the word “comfort”. Wim found comfort in the ice. Plunging his body in frozen lakes caused a switch in him that is not far from those plot you see in Marvel movies of a superhero discovering his calling.

Wim Hof standing in the ice

Wim became friend with the ice, passing more and more time in it. People called him crazy, lunatic. Are they to blame? Nobody sane would spend most of his time in ice frozen water.

Fast forward 10 years and lots and lots of celebrities around the world are doing exactly the same, screaming “miracles” for the “Wim Hof Method”.

But it wasn’t easy. People had to overlook Wim' slightly “odd" personality and be convinced that there were more to it that just a crazy European spending time in the ice.

I don’t know if it was part of his plans to “bring cold to the masses” but Wim gained popularity by doing extreme things and getting as much spotlight as possible through internet and TV.

He climbed the Everest and the Kilimanjaro wearing nothing but shoes and shorts, he completed a full marathon above the arctic circle in Finland, in temperatures close to −20 °C (−4 °F) again dressed in nothing but shorts. He also beat several world records for the longest amount of time in the ice that any human being as ever accomplished (1 hour 52 minutes and 42 seconds).

So far you might think: “well, here is this freak of nature doing cool things. Good for him!”.

I wouldn’t been writing this post if there was something more to him, something that science looked into.

If you are reading my blog you’re also a skeptic and your “scam-o-meter” beeps very loudly when it comes to Wim Hof.

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The Wim Hof Phenomenon

As with every new “weird” thing, Wim Hof became very popular in USA before in his native land Holland.

Interviewed by Joe Rogan, Tim Ferriss, London Real he quickly became a synonym for cold = good.

Many people started applying the Wim Hof Method, posting pictures of themselves swimming in ice lakes, showing themselves in water baths covered in ice and swearing how their lives were changed and whatnot.

A photo posted by Wim Hof (@iceman_hof) on

To me, this raises so many red flags you can’t even imagine. Here, the patrons of the Broscience consecrating a new idol to the masses that immediately adhere ecstatic to the new verb.

I had to look more into it. I’m all about personal development and growth. If there’s something new that could benefit me and you I’m on it but before, I want to know how much truth is in it and how much bullshit is in there.

And here comes the reason for this post.

The Radboud University Medical Centre in the Netherlands has performed some cool studies on Wim Hof and his techniques and found out things so revolutionary that biology books need a couple of chapters to be rewritten.

Wim Hof Techniques To Control The Immune System

There is immunology before Wim Hof and after Wim Hof.

Immunology before Wim Hof said that our defense mechanism is composed of innate response and adapted response. The innate response is the first line of defense of our body against infections as microorganisms (bacteria, etc.). We can’t control it. Millennia of evolution shaped this response to be automatic and quick. We don’t have much to do with it. Or do we?

Enter the Wim Hof Method

In 2012 the equipe of Prof. Peter Pikkers from the Radboud University Medical Centre decided to study the iceman to understand how come he could withstand such harsh conditions. What does it make him special?

As we will see later on, the Wim Hof method is composed of 3 parts. One of this is a meditation/visualization technique that Hof took from the tibetan monks of the Himalaya. The Tummo meditation technique (details on this later in this article).

In the 2012 study (pdf), the scientists checked several hormones and cytokines (signaling molecules involved in the immune response among other things) in Wim Hof in three conditions: 1) Wim Hof meditation before immersion for 80 minutes in an ice bath, 2) Wim Hof meditation just by itself and 3) Wim Hof meditation after being injected with a component of E. coli cell wall to simulate a sepsis, a systemic infection.

The incredible discovery came from experiment number 3. By application of his meditation technique, Wim Hof was able to minimize the immune response of his body.

While everybody else would have had flu-like symptoms, Wim Hof by means of applying his meditation technique, just had a slight headache.

When scientists set out to understand what is so special about Wim Hof meditation technique, they found out that the breathing technique was able to increase his epinephrine (adrenaline) levels. Also, norepinephrine was higher (but to a lesser extent compared to epinephrine) and cortisol levels were lower. This “adrenaline rush” resulted in the release of inhibitory cytokines that would “calm down” the immune system and not making it over-react (talking about meditating to your core eh?! 😛 ).

So, not only he could control the immune system but also the autonomous nervous system (specifically the sympathetic system through the increase of epinephrine).

We are talking about a part of the nervous system that is called autonomous because it cannot be influenced by our conscious thoughts (so we believed). This system controls many core functionalities of our body. Yet, by a breathing technique you can actually influence it.

Now, this could be that Wim Hof is just a badass and that he mastered the techniques so well that he became superhuman. Quite the contrary.

Hof set, together to the equip of Prof. Pikkers, to train a group of volunteers for 14 days and perform the experiment again in a scientific and controlled setting.

A photo posted by Wim Hof (@iceman_hof) on

So there you have, in 2014 the breakthrough paper from PNAS (pdf) describing how the Wim Hof method could be reproduced in people different from Wim Hof himself. The trained volunteers showed the same response Wim had after injection with the E.coli toxin.

Though, after analyzing both papers I noticed a couple of differences:

  1. In the study on Hof (study 2012), Wim’s cortisol levels were way higher than the control group while in the study with the trained volunteers (study 2014) levels were compatible with those of the control group and they normalized faster. Will the Wim Hof method cause higher cortisol levels in the long run?
  2. In study 2012, Wim’s epinephrine level were half the one of study 2014. Also norepinephrine levels of study 2012 were lower. Is it just a methodological difference or after years of training the body adapts to higher elevated epinephrine/norepinephrine levels by down regulating its production.
  3. The levels of IL-10 not only have an inverse pattern between the two studies but also the differences are dramatic. In fact, in the 2012 study, IL-10 levels in Wim Hof reach a peak of 100 pg/mL after two hours and the control group around 350 pg/mL/. In the 2014 study, the IL-10 levels of the voluntaries reach 800 pg/mL while the control 200 pg/mL. Could also here an adaptation have taken place?

Besides these differences that I would really like to see addressed, the papers have shown that through the application of a combination of cold exposure, meditation/breathing (Wim Hof method) the immune response and the autonomous nervous system can be controlled. And this was believed not possible before.

Is fair to mention, as a reader of this article pointed out, that the study didn't use a placebo for the control group. Which means that the control group wasn't performing any kind of "weird" respiratory technique. This is the biggest flaw of this study since the intervention group might have had those effects just because they were doing "something". If you want to read more about the placebo effect and how powerful this is, I would recommend you the amazing book "Bad Science" by Ben Goldacre.

This, to the biohackers out there sounds like a lot of fun and another step towards becoming superhuman with legit methods scientifically proven.

But for “normal” people, what does these results mean?

By being able to suppress the immune response, people with chronic inflammation or autoimmune diseases like rheumatism, might be able to heal or alleviate the symptoms of these conditions.

Let’s have a look at how the method is composed and let’s look at each component scientifically to understand what is useful and what (might be) useless.

A photo posted by Wim Hof (@iceman_hof) on


The Wim Hof Techniques: Description of Wim Hof Method

The Wim Hof method is composed of three parts: cold exposure, breathing exercises, meditation/visualization exercises.

In each section, you will also find out whether such part of the method is compatible with bodybuilding and/or generally getting stronger.

Wim Hof Technique: Cold Exposure (Cold Showers/Baths)

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We already discussed how much mysticism is there around cold showers nowadays. From proponents of testosterone booster, to cure for depression, to sleep quality enhancer. All bullshit.

In the context of the Wim Hof method, the technique of cold exposure serves as a stress trigger to prime your body to deal with future stress.

By the way, this is not what Wim Hof says but this is what you can defer from the 2012 scientific paper by Pikkers and colleagues. In fact, this paper shows that when the Wim Hof meditation technique is followed by ice immersion, Wim Hof cells were less reactive to the infection. Pikkers suggests that this might be due to the fact that the cells are exposed to chronically higher levels of epinephrine and cortisol due to the method which have the effect of "dumb down" the immune system cells.

Is This Wim Hof Technique of Cold Exposure Compatible With Bodybuilding And Strength Development?​

Immersion in ice cold water or in general exposure to the cold as with cold showers have the effect of increasing your cortisol levels. This will result in decreases in testosterone which is ultimately the “gainz-hormone”. You can read more about this in my post about cold showers.

During the research for this post, I stumbled upon recent research on the effect of cold exposure on muscle hypertrophy, which is to say the effect that exposing yourself to cold temperatures (cold showers, ice baths) has on your muscle gains.

Both Yamane and colleagues and Roberts and colleagues showed that exposing yourself to cold temperatures is a very bad idea after a workout.

Cold temperatures, in fact, will slow down the recovery process that takes place after a workout. During the recovery process, the inflammation in your muscles will trigger signaling that activates satellite cells in your muscles that will contribute to making your muscles bigger and stronger. By exposing yourself to the cold you’re making this slower, therefore less effective.

So, don’t screw up your gainz and just take a regular shower after a workout.

What about a cold shower far from workouts?

You will still raise your cortisol levels. It depepnds on what your goals are. Do you wanna get jacked af? Don’t. Do you want to control your immunity? Do them.

Wim Hof Technique: Breathing Technique And Visualization Technique

Wim Hof didn’t invent this one. He took this technique from the Tibetan tradition of Tummo meditation and brought it “bastardized” to the West.

The original Tummo technique is something very sacred for their professants. It is a complex procedure based on breathing techniques and visualization techniques. The Tummo meditation is also called “inner fire” since its adept can dry wet sheets placed on their bodies while practicing it.

The Tummo Meditation

(I’m gonna simplify here) The Tummo meditation is composed of two components: 1) breathing exercises and 2) visualization.

In the breathing part, the person does something very similar to what the Wim Hof method entails (we will see the details in a sec). It consists of repeated inhalations, breath holding, and contraction of abdomen and pelvis.

In the visualization part, the person imagines flames running inside his body (this is an oversimplification).

At first I thought: “what a bunch of crap”. If you think the same as you read, that’s ok but keep on reading, you’re on for a surprise.

Turns out that there is one amazing research paper out there about the Tummo meditation.

Kozhevnikov and colleagues went to Tibet, got a bunch of Tummo practisants, put a bunch of sensors on them and measured their body temperature and their brain waves during the breathing part and during the visualization part.

They found out that the legend was actually true!

These expert Tummo practitioners could actually increase their body temperature for up to 1 hour with temperatures above normal (almost fever temperatures!).

It’s fascinating to see how these people, having to face the unforgiving temperatures of the Himalaya figured out a way to face the cold. Screw external impediments, am I right?

But these enterprising researchers didn’t stop there and did something that I find super cool.

They thought: “well, ok, these people are expert and stuff, but is this visualization part really needed or it’s just the breathing that makes the temperature rise?”.

Can Just The Tummo Breathing Work?

So they recruited a bunch of American women and gave them the instructions to perform the first part of the Tummo meditation, the breathing part. The idea was to see if just by breathing in a certain way, one could achieve the increased body temperatures as the more expert Tibetan Tummo meditators could.

Indeed, these women were capable of increasing their body temperatures by only practicing the breathing techniques of the Tummo meditation!

Although there were two differences of the breathing techniques alone, compared to when associated with the visualization techniques as the expert Tummo meditators do:

  1. The temperature rise is within the normal body temperature (not in “fever-zone” temperatures).
  2. The increased temperature cannot be sustained for long times.

This showed how the meditation/visualization part even though not crucial to get increased body temperature, is important to get higher temperatures and to sustain them.

The Tummo meditation technique seems to activate the sympathetic nervous system (study) which is the one responsible for the increase in epinephrine (adrenaline) that we observe from the research from Pikkers and colleagues in the Wim Hof method.

Wim Hof Breathing Technique Instructions

Let's see now the actual breathing technique used by Wim Hof in his method as reported from his website:

1

GET COMFORTABLE

Sit in a meditation posture, whatever is most comfortable for you. Make sure you can expand your lungs freely without feeling any constriction. It is recommended to do this practice right after waking up since your stomach is still empty or before a meal.

2

30 POWER BREATHS

Imagine you’re blowing up a balloon. Inhale through the nose or mouth and exhale through the mouth in short but powerful bursts. Keep a steady pace and use your midriff fully. Close your eyes and do this around 30 times. Symptoms could be light-headedness, tingling sensations in the body.

3

HOLD

After the 30 rapid successions of breath cycles, draw the breath in once more and fill the lungs to maximum capacity without using any force. Then let the air out and hold for as long as you can without force. Hold the breath until you experience the gasp reflex.

4

RECOVERY BREATH

Inhale to full capacity. Feel your chest expanding. When you are at full capacity, hold the breath for around 10 seconds and this will be round one. The breathing exercise can be repeated 3 rounds after each other.

5

FEELING

After having completed the breathing exercise take your time to enjoy the feeling afterward. This feeling will be more and more like a meditation.

When you start doing these exercises we recommend to take your time recovering from the breathing exercise. After doing the breathing exercise and you feel good, you can start with taking the cold shower.

WIM HOF BREATHING TECHNIQUE CHECKLIST

  • +-30 times balloon blowing
  • Breathe in fully
  • Breath out without force and hold until gasp reflex
  • Inhale fully and hold for 10 seconds
  • Repeat until finished and recover from the breathing exercise

Is This Wim Hof Breathing Technique Compatible With Bodybuilding And Strength Development?

For this there is, unfortunately, no clear answer.

I read dozens and dozens of papers trying to figure out the effects of high epinephrine without cortisol increase on muscle hypertrophy and strength development but the conclusion is not clear.

From the 2012 study of Pikkers seems that the meditation technique by itself doesn’t have effects on cortisol and norepinephrine but only it raises epinephrine. Also, the immune system seems not to be affected without an external stimulus as cold or infection.

But then I wonder, wouldn’t a workout be considered a stress stimulus?

If so, the Wim Hof method may slow down the recovery process by increasing cortisol levels and/or decreasing immune cells activity.

The only way to know this would be to have a research study in which two groups have a workout and one undergoes the Wim Hof method in its totality or just the breathing/meditation part and then see the differences.

Conclusions cannot be drawn at the moment with the present data (sorry).


Wrapping Up

The Wim Hof method seems to be a very interesting new “toy” in the biohacker arsenal or just if you wanna try something different (and be “hip and cool”).

Here I reported a critical review of its merits and raised some questions. On his website, way too many claims are made as it concerns its benefits (auto-immune diseases healing, cardiovascular system strengthening, increase in brown fat to fight obesity, increased energy).

Wim Hof Meme

They have to sell something, of course. To their honour, they use the word “could” for many of the described benefits.

For one thing, this method might be useful for people with auto-immune diseases or chronic inflammation but more research has to be performed to say this as a certainty.

Be critical, check the papers mentioned in this post and my analysis and, as usual, see what best works for you.

As concerning people into bodybuilding and strength training I would not recommend this method, given the current evidence we have on the matter. The breathing technique might be fine but there is not enough data to draw conclusions.

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I'm Curious...​

Before you go, could you give me 30 seconds of your time and let me know why you do the Wim Hof method? Just answer in the form below. Thank you in advance!​

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  • ChennaiBala

    amazingly cool !

  • Simon Whyatt

    Be critical indeed.

    1. The major alarm bell that should be ringing with this study, is that the control had no placebo intervention.

    It’s therefore most probable that any supposed effects were due to placebo effect. Giving sugar pills to the intervention group would most likey have lessened the effects of the flu symptoms also, with a lot less faff and discomfort for the participants!

    2. Next major flaw, is that “The” intervention was 3 interventions, meditation, breathing technique and cold exposure. If there were an actual effect, we have no idea if it’s caused by 1, 2 or all 3. Perhaps 1 alone would have worked, or worked better, and the others actually detracted.

    3. Some troubling things in the methods. 3 people were stricken from the control group, as they didn’t have a sufficiently high inflammatory response or flu symptoms – it was therefore “presumed” that they weren’t correctly administered the toxin. Hmm. How do we know that none of the low inflammatory responses and symptoms in the intervention group weren’t also down to low doeses of toxin?

    All in all, a terribly designed and conducted study. Unless of course you’re looking to promote the Wil Hof method!

    • “1. The major alarm bell that should be ringing with this study, is that the control had no placebo intervention.”
      you are right, I will update the post to stress this point more.

      “2. Next major flaw, is that “The” intervention was 3 interventions, meditation, breathing technique and cold exposure. If there were an actual effect, we have no idea if it’s caused by 1, 2 or all 3. Perhaps 1 alone would have worked, or worked better, and the others actually detracted.”
      I agree totally with you. The aim of the study was to prove if it’s method did the job. I suppose further study will be needed. I have to mention though that the study done singularly on Wim Hof (linked in the article) was performed on single components and proved that the combination of breathing technique+cold was necessary to stimulate the effect. To be fair this was checked ex vivo. I talked in the article about this.

      “3. Some troubling things in the methods. 3 people were stricken from the control group, as they didn’t have a sufficiently high inflammatory response or flu symptoms – it was therefore “presumed” that they weren’t correctly administered the toxin. Hmm. How do we know that none of the low inflammatory responses and symptoms in the intervention group weren’t also down to low doeses of toxin?”
      this is why studies are usually replicated. Of course we don’t know and only replication of this studies by others will be able to confirm or disprove this. As for everything, we can’t know until replication occurs.

    • Daniel Hernandez

      Here’s another idea, and I know it sounds super crazy, TRYING IT FOR YOURSELF. I know this idea totally violates everything, I mean god forbid we try something and it doesn’t benefit us like it should. It doesn’t matter how carefully these experiments are performed, at the end of the day, everyone’s body responds differently and uniquely. Whether studies show that this works Great or works like Shit, all that matters is how it works for you. Test it out yourself, if it works for you it works for you, if it doesn’t it doesn’t. Fuck experimentation by outside sources, be your own scientist. That is true badassery.

      • Simon Whyatt

        Personally, I value my time, my money, and in this particular instance don’t have any great desire to sit in a bath of freezing cold ice.

        There are 1000s and 1000s of different claims out there for different health regimes and therapies.

        If you were to personally attempt them all, it would take an entire lifetime, and cost a fortune. There’s also a fair chance many of them will actually be counter productive and set you back in your goals.

        One of the reasons humans have done so well as a species, is that we can learn from others mistakes.

        Yes, there is a place for self experimentation – No diet, supplement, training program etc works the same for everyone – just because an intervention has been shown to work for most people, doesn’t mean it will work for you.

        If, however, 100s of people have taken part in a study, and it’s been shown not to work for anyone, why waste your time and cash, thinking that for some reason it’s going to work for you?

        Equally, if it’s not been tested on anyone, or not been proven to work/be free from negative side effects, why take the risk, when you could do something else with a higher probability of success?

        So yes, experiment with creatine if you wish, to see if you’re a responder or not, but don’t experiment with homeopathy or smoking cigarettes because the science is pretty clear neither is a good idea!

        As far the WHM goes, yes, there’s plenty of evidence for benefits or meditation, with little to no drawbacks, so go for it, experiment away, but I think you can find better ways to spend your time than sitting in a bath of freezing cold ice water…

        • Valentas Valiuta

          Just say it. You wouldn’t do it because of the cold part. Admit it and it’s all good 🙂

          • Simon Whyatt

            Well yeah duh!

            I take normal temperature baths and showers every day obviously.

            I do meditation every day, for which there is a fair bit of evidence of benefit.

            And nothing wrong with a dunk in cold water once in a while. I go wild swimming, and like the odd obstacle course race through freezing rivers and ice pools, but subjecting yourself to it everyday expecting some miracle effect is just dumb.

            If you want the detailed debunking of the WHM check it out here: http://www.livenowthrivelater.co.uk/2016/12/why-id-still-skip-the-ice-baths-even-if-they-worked/

  • Hannes

    All in all I am disappointed by the article as you appear to be biased from the beginning. Your conclusions imply that you were specifically searching evidence for your interpretations/conclusions as you neglected lots of relevant research (for example brown fat, effects on the cardiovascular system, testosterone implications, …). Also transparency of your findings is compromised as you did not provide a list of references and studies you used to get to your conclusions. This article is more journalism than science, made to appeal a certain group of people. In terms of scientific understanding I did not learn anything new here.

    I suggest to post the reference list so one can evaluate your findings more profoundly.

    • “you neglected lots of relevant research (for example brown fat, effects on the cardiovascular system, testosterone implications, …).”
      they are all here: http://www.thebroscientist.com/bullshit-cold-showers-youve-told-far/

      “Also transparency of your findings is compromised as you did not provide a list of references and studies you used to get to your conclusions.”
      Every study is linked in the text. I suggest you read the article properly.

      “This article is more journalism than science, made to appeal a certain group of people. In terms of scientific understanding I did not learn anything new here.”
      Scientific research is done in academic papers and it is usually peer-reviewed, not certainly on a blog. If you want to read the actual science the papers are linked in the post. Here I break it down for the lay person to understand.

      • Hannes

        I did see your links in the text, since your conclusions are either arbitrary or have a broader foundation of research I assumed that you had a look on more than what you linked, in your favor. If you say you linked everything you used then again I get to the point of neglection of research. There are studies suggesting either no effect at all of cold showers on testosterone as well as studies implying a positive effect. So one may conclude there is unclear evidence, however your conclusion of cold showers are bad for testosterone is simply not backed clearly.
        just a quick 5 minute research brought me those for example:
        http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3109/01485018808987051
        http://www.ajog.org/article/S0002-9378(13)00146-4/pdf
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20389168

        Just because one study you find seems to be bullshit does not mean that the whole science in the area is bullshit.
        Another thing I would liked to see you mention is the summary of cold exposure effects by rhonda patrick, which brings lots of references that might interest you. http://www.slideshare.net/KevinChristie/cold-shocking-the-body-by-rhonda-patrick

        more interesting stuff:
        Cochrane, Darryl J. „Alternating hot and cold water immersion for athlete recovery: a review.“ Physical Therapy in Sport 5.1 (2004): 26-32.

        I generally appreciate your approach, I just find your conclusions way off. As you did with BB + WHM section you should have concluded that the evidence is unclear, partially contradicting. you cannot conclude that cold is bad by selecting a few studies that suit your needs.

        • Please show me the papers proving the effects of cold exposure in increasing testosterone levels because all my hours of research haven’t shown any.

          The paper you mentioned:
          – number 1: in vitro study, not relevant
          – number 2: “The sperm concentration and percentage of fast motility showed a significant decrease from spring toward summer and fall (P < .001) with recovery noticed during the winter. As well, the highest percentage of normal sperm morphology was observed during the winter months."
          This is correlation and not causation. Furthermore it doesn't imply that testosterone levels are increased.
          – number 3: I stumbled upon this paper during my research. First is a rat study, secondly, they expose them to bath of 41-43 degrees C. Not only this doesn't prove that the opposite is true (cold is good for your testosterone), but also that temperature of course would cause damage as it is too elevated!
          Also, I never dismissed the whole science as bullshit. I dismissed as bullshit certain claims of its use (increase testosterone for instance).
          The study by Cochrane is from 2004. Further studies have been performed afterwards and some are mentioned in this post. (Yamane et al., Roberts et al.)

  • Blaine

    I’m gonna have to do some experimenting with the breath aspect of this. I have no intention of immersing myself in cold water or ice.

    Having done a fair amount of positive pressure breathing variations while meditating, I have no issue with claims one can elevate ones body temp with breathing. I’ve sat down in a cold room and wound up sweating just sitting there. Heavy exercise can easily elevate body temps to the fever zone 103-105° as well.

    Do people who practice the WimHoff breathing technique find themselves overheating at all in regular or warm temps?

    Still and all very interesting.

  • Thank you for the critical analysis of Wim Hof method! I have tried it myself and found it interesting, but I’m still not convinced of all the claims they make for it.

    I also have some questions, for instance if the breathing technique causes a stress response, why would a stress response be a good thing? Don’t most people have too much chronic stress as it is? And for getting lean and fit, cortisol is already a problem, not something we want more of.

    Also in terms of inhibiting an immune response, do we really want a blunted immunity? Even in terms of autoimmune disorder, is it a good idea to generally inhibit the immune response? Don’t we actually want to stop the immune response specifically to human cells, and not generally to all pathogens?

    My experience of the breathing and cold exposure is that they seem to be unrelated to me. I developed greater cold tolerance before ever learning of the breathing method by simply exposing myself to cold water at the end of my regular showers. The breathing is certainly trance-inducing, and no doubt cathartic for people with many stored stresses or emotional repression, and that is probably the main appeal of it IMO, not the physiological benefits. It’s also trippy as hell, and many people experience altered states when they do the breathing exercises, especially for longer periods on live retreats.

    • XY1981Ca

      I like this article, very accurate. The WHM is not for everybody and for every situation. Not for muscle building. But its health benefit claims is pretty sound based on our understanding of our physiology. Do the method, you will reduce inflammation, reduce aging and autoimmune diseases if not cure them.

      To answer your questions about the method, you have to change your perspective to appreciate it. These exercises last about 1 hour per session and at the end of each breathing round is a recovery breath. What’s happening is that you are 1) creating an environment in your body that allows you to hold your breath longer than usual, 2) inducing stress hormones, 3) recovery breath to put body oxygen levels back to normal to end the stress response. This means that the stress is acute and not chronic, it is also controlled in the sense that you are telling it when to start and tell it to end. The result is very different than chronic stress that is typically out of your control and hard to tell when it starts/ends. Another way of looking at it, WHM ramps your stress response much higher than your normal dose and then brings it back down. Now your body does not respond so harshly to the random chronic stresses in daily life because you are exercising that part of your system. Whereas without this method, chronic stresses from your daily life acts like a leaky faucet for stress hormones and your body is continuously trying to fight it (itself) to get back to baseline. But the baseline never comes because you have not figured out how to control the chronic stress.

      The breathing and the cold combined increases the anti-inflammatory properties. By doing just the breathing is great, but without the cold, it falls short by 20% or more. It may be that the last 20% or so is just harder to notice. But after having done the method haphazardly for 6 months, I don’t get sick anymore, my cuts/scrapes are healing much faster than I’ve ever experienced, I have no more mouth sores or bleeding gums, I have measured my PH increasing after the breathing and I am a lot more aware of my own body. I’ve tried running, dieting and other things, but nothing has worked so profoundly and so quickly as the WHM.

      Another perspective for doing the WHM is that we should all question ourselves, why are we so afraid of the cold? Why would we rather live with our diseases than take a cold shower or ice bath? If the critters in our backyards can live their whole lives in the cold of the night outdoors, we can surely survive a 10 minute cold shower. But comments here and in many blogs show the same sentiment. We think we can’t do it, we don’t want to do it, we make excuses not to do it. And then we wonder why we are weaker and more disease ridden than the squirrels in our backyards.

      OK, that was uncalled for, people who visit health blogs are probably in pretty good shape and I’m not one to talk. But still, be honest with yourself about that for a second and reevaluate why you’re so quick to dismiss these ideas when its been practiced for thousands of years and look at our pampered but diseased world today where we all hide in our cars and air conditioning. To be clear, the cold is just one way to stress and stimulate the body, you can use heat and other methods. Cold is just the easiest and safest to use.

  • J. Han

    Thanks for this blog. I stumbled up on it (more like google rated your site to be on the top of the page) as I was doing some research into Wim Hof Method. This saves me so much work on looking for research papers myself. I believe there has been a lot of study done of stressing our body to give a reboot which can include heat stress, or cold stress. Maybe the cold stress in this case does indeed give a reboot for our body? I do not see this portion mentioned anywhere in your paper and thought I would mention it here. Sorry for not citing any research paper here, but I believe Alex, the broscientist, can find some paper on this?