Wim Hof Method: Ice baths and breathing techniques may boost health

Plunging into an ice bath and setting time aside in your busy day for deep breathing exercises might not be at the top of your to-do list. but for fans of the Wim Hof Method, it’s a ritual believed to unlock many health benefits.

Across his decades of dedication, Wim Hof has set 26 world records and has broken a Guinness World Record 18 times. His achievements include climbing Mount Kilimanjaro while wearing only shorts, holding himself in ice water for nearly two hours, and running a full marathon in the Namib Desert without drinking.

Known as “The Iceman,” Hof‘s technique features three components: the breathing method, cold therapy and commitment. It claims to enhance physical and mental health by reducing stress, improving immune function, increasing energy levels, enhancing sleep quality and heightening focus. And now, science is starting to back up his claims.

Researchers from the University of Warwick examined the method’s advantages by reviewing data from eight published trials. Their findings, published in PLOS ONE, revealed cold therapy, like ice baths, can increase adrenaline levels and stimulate the production of anti-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines while reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines. This, in turn, decreases inflammation in the body, which is noteworthy because inflammation has been linked to various health problems, including cardiovascular diseases, asthma, diabetes and even cancer.

Although the results suggest Hof’s method may have certain benefits, researchers caution that more thorough studies are needed, given “the low sample size (15–48 individuals per study) and large proportion of males in the studies (86.4%).”

“Our systematic review underscores the need for further investigation into the Wim Hof method’s effects on stress, inflammation, and overall health, offering valuable insights into its potential as a complementary approach to wellness,” the authors stated in a press release.