Breathing exercises + unbearably cold temperatures = boost your overall health?.. You’re probably already aware of the trend involving a bearded, shirtless chap meditating peacefully in some of the coldest environments you can imagine. It's a simple yet powerful technique that has gained vast popularity in wellbeing circles. Read on to learn more.


A man on a mission

Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof, a.k.a ‘The Iceman’ has broken numerous records related to exposure in the cold including running an Arctic Circle half marathon bare footed. Wim Hof stands by his motto: ‘what I am capable of, everyone can learn’, Hof is convinced everyone can reach their inner potential without having to invest the same amount of time and travel. This method is intended for those who aspire to control their mind in order to achieve extraordinarily things. Wim has made it his mission to share what he’s learned with the rest of the world, and so he developed the Wim Hof method: a combination of breathing exercises and therapy in the cold which offers a range of benefits explained below.


How does it work?

Through controlled hyperventilation, retention and revival - here’s how it works:

  • Step 1 | Get Comfortable: Sit in a comfortable position.
  • Step 2 | Power Breaths: In this phase, breathe deeply and rhythmically for 30 cycles. Keep the pace of your breathing consistent.
  • Step 3 | The Hold: After your 30 cycles, inhale once more and full your lungs to maximum capacity. Now, release this air and hold for as long as you can without force. Hold your breath until you experience the gasp reflex on the top of your chest.
  • Step 4 | Recovery: Breathe in to maximum capacity. You will feel your chest expand, this is when the lungs fill with air. Hold your breath for about 10-15 seconds more. Repeat this cycle 3 times. Once you have completed this breathing exercise you may experience a head-rush sensation.


Health benefits 

This method can be used in combination with cold therapy to help reduce symptom impact of inflammatory conditions. Here’s some claimed health benefits from those who swear by Hof’s methods.

  • Decreases in flu-like symptoms 
  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep
  • Reductions in altitude sickness 
  • More robust immune system
  • Heightened focus 
  • Improved oxygen delivery during exercise


Will you give this a go? Try spicing things up by taking a cold(er) shower after your next workout but remember, cold therapy takes patience and shouldn't be rushed. So can cold therapy help keep the doctor away? Whilst the exact physiology behind Hof’s methods are not completely understood, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the current science surrounding this topic to our mailing list - sign up to our free newsletter below to get the insights before anyone else!


Dr Zobir Alexander

Dr Zobir Alexander, MB ChB, BSc (Hons) - Senior Writer

August 12, 2022 — Dr Zobir Alexander