Why Wim Hof Breathing Sparks Controversy Among Researchers in Ice Bath Benefits

ice cold bath benefits with Wim Hof Breathing Method

Wim Hof is a Dutch athlete, widely known as ‘The Iceman’ for his numerous breaking records related to cold exposure – including running above the Arctic Circle barefoot, and standing for 112 minutes in a container full of ice. These extreme stunts are just 2 out of his 26 world records, breaking the Guinness Book of World Records 18 timesEquipped with extensive training since a teen, Hof learned that control over breathing holds a variety of implications on cold exposure, lending a great skill to leverage for those looking to reap cold bath benefits. 

Deciding to share his experience in body temperature regulation and its physiological effects, he proposed Wim Hof’s breathing method, and eventually, became a motivational speaker. 

The methods have gained exposure in the industry, with this being said, for their polarising blend of supported and pseudo-science. Many experts insist that while his method may have numerous benefits- it’s risky, and lacks fundamental clinical backing to be applicable for everyone. Xtreme Ice Baths explores the background to the Wim Hof breathing methods, and explores findings on its ice bath benefits and possible risks. 


What is the Wim Hof Method

Wim Hof’s method is based on three pillars  breathing exercises, cold exposure, and commitment. According to Wim Hof, here’s how to incorporate them into the process: 

  1. Find the most comfortable position. 
  2. Inhale deeply, either through your nose or mouth- make sure that your belly is pushing outward. When you feel that your lungs are already full, exhale using your mouth- without force. 
  3. Repeat it for about 30-40 times in short bursts. 
  4. Take the final inhalation. Hold your breath as long as you can and then breathe again. 
  5. Finally, inhale deeply and hold it for 15 seconds, then let it go- this completes your first round. 

Here, it’s suggested to repeat the whole process three to four times. 


Potential cold bath benefits with the Wim Hof Breathing Method

Wim Hof claims that his breathing method provides numerous benefits such as: 

  • Becoming more invigorated 
  • Lessen stress levels 
  • Better immune system 
  • Improved sleep
  • More focus on daily activities

However, most of these claims have not yet been verified by scientific studies. Scientists insist that the Wim Hof Method needs further research before being recommended to the public. 


What do researchers say

A 2018 survey was conducted on 30-60 men who tried the WHM method, having learned of it online or via word of mouth. Most of these men claimed that they experienced positive changes in their overall well-being; stress and anxiety, respiration, and focus and awareness. 

Research about hyperventilation, in general (not with the Wim Hof Method specifically)- posits that controlled bouts of rapid breathing can relax the brain, leading to elevated pressure in the skull. 

Another review was conducted for over 150 participants – 13% of subjects experienced a reduction in inflammation, including individuals with chronic arthritis. These findings were corroborated by two separate studies indicating a significant decrease in levels of proteins such as TNF-a IL-6 and IL-8 – all known as inflammatory proteins; alongside increasing protein IL-10- known as anti-inflammatory protein. 

Amidst the acclaim, various contradictions occur. Certain individuals who tried the Wim Hof Method reported that they experienced difficulty with sleeping. This method may also result in dizziness or lightheadedness during hyperventilation (rapid breathing). Hyperventilation may cause a person to faint as it reduces blood flow to the brain- depriving oxygen to the body. 



Incorporating various methods alone to reap ice bath benefits is risky. We highly advise you to consult with health experts before including any regimen in your ice bath routine. Following the simple guides, such as setting limitations to 15-10 minutes or gradually exposing your body to cold water, ensures safety and effectiveness. 

Reach out to us today and let our experts help you experience cold bath benefits at your own home. 


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