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Boost Your Health With The Wim Hof Method

Boosting the immune system is easier said than done, and you need to make several changes to your lifestyle in order to really strengthen the body’s defense system. One such method of boosting your overall health is by the Wim Hof Method. Regular practitioners of the Wim Hof Method experience a positive impact on their immune system and overall health. This is not a new method, and for many years, scientists have studied how the Wim Hof Method helps bring about these positive changes in the body.

Here’s everything you need to know on how to boost your health with the Wim Hof Method.

Boost Your Health With The Wim Hof Method

What is the Wim Hof Method?

The Wim Hof Method is a technique for boosting your immunity and overall health by combining breathing, cold therapy, and commitment to connecting more deeply with your body. It involves the combined techniques of powerful inhalation, relaxed exhalation, and prolonged breath holds to increase immunity, reduce stress, get better sleep, and improve your focus.(1, 2, 3)

The Wim Hof Method was created by Wim Hof, who is a Dutch extreme athlete popularly known only as ‘The Iceman.’ According to Hof, it is possible to achieve incredible things by developing command over your breath, body, and mind with the use of some unique breathing techniques and building a tolerance to extreme temperatures.

There are three main founding pillars of the Wim Hof Method. These include:(4, 5)

In the first phase, students have to learn the unique Wim Hof Method of controlled deep breathing, which can then be practiced alone or together with cold therapy. Cold therapy is a technique in which the body is exposed to extremely cold temperatures for a few minutes. According to the Wim Hof Method, the point of the breathing technique is to increase oxygen levels in the body and eliminate carbon dioxide. This has been shown to help with anxiety, depression, mood swings, mental focus, and even pain management.(6)

The ultimate goal of the Wim Hof Method breathing technique is to teach students how to develop mastery over the immune, nervous, and cardiovascular systems to help them become healthier, stronger, and happier.

How to Practice the Wim Hof Breathing Technique?

The best part of the Wim Hof Method breathwork is that there is a format to be followed, but there is room to make it work for every person as an individual. Due to this, you get to learn a slightly different version of the Wim Hof Method breathwork practice from different teachers. You are also free to change how you practice the breathwork depending on how you are feeling on any particular day. This is actually encouraged in this method.

One round of the Wim Hof Method breathwork technique includes the following steps:

  • Take in a deep, strong breath through your nose.
  • Let out a relaxed breath through the mouth.
  • Repeat this for 30 breaths.
  • As you reach the 30th breath, exhale up to 90 percent of the breath and hold the rest in for as long as you can.
  • When you feel like your body really can’t hold your breath any longer, then inhale fully and hold for 15 seconds before exhaling.

This is a basic breathing technique, and you need to do three consecutive rounds of this.

Over time, the breathing should feel like a wave just flowing through your lungs. However, it does take some practice to reach that stage.

One thing to keep in mind is that many people often use just the top of their lungs when they inhale, which causes mostly shallow breaths. In the Wim Hof breathing technique, the breathing pattern involves the diaphragm as well, and even the lower lungs get filled. Your belly should also stick out when you inhale and flatten at the time of exhalation.(7)

The Wim Hof Method of breathing can be challenging for those people who are reverse breathers. If you want to find out if you are a reverse breather, check if your belly flattens when you inhale and protrudes out when you exhale. This is known as reverse breathing. (8)

In order to correct reverse breathing, you can try placing your hand on your stomach or lying down on your back and placing a small weight on your stomach. This will provide you with sensory feedback as you practice pushing out while inhaling and feel the stomach going down while exhaling. One of the best things to do, though, is to get proper guidance from a trained Wim Hof instructor, who will help you become well versed in the breathing technique.

  • If you are new to the Wim Hof Method of breathwork, here are some general tips to help you get used to the technique.
  • If you are not able to breathe through your nose due to a cold, congestion, or any other reason, it is okay to breathe from your mouth.
  • It may help if you use the cue ‘Belly, Chest, Head’ when you inhale to remind you that you need to use all of your lungs.
  • Make a conscious effort to relax your jaw and the muscles in your upper shoulders and neck. Otherwise, it is possible to experience tension headaches.
  • Forget having a competitive mindset. It does not matter for how long you are able to hold the 30th breath. You are not competing with anyone.
  • When you hold your breath, you can either use a nose clip or pinch your nose to avoid taking even small sips of air if needed.
  • Use the breath retention phase to witness your body’s response and own thoughts during that time.

What are the Health Benefits of the Wim Hof Method?

If you go through the website of the Wim Hof Method, you will find that according to the creator of the method, it offers many benefits, including:(9)

  • Better sleep
  • Increased energy levels
  • Better willpower
  • Reduced stress levels
  • Stronger immune system
  • Improved determination and focus

However, not all of these benefits are supported and backed up by scientific evidence and research. Some of the benefits of the Wim Hof Method that are supported by scientific evidence include:

  • It has anti-inflammatory effects.
  • It has a voluntary influence on the immune system and nervous system.
  • It reduces flu-like symptoms.
  • It reduces altitude sickness.
  • It increases the levels of neurotransmitters in the nervous system.
  • It boosts oxygen delivery during exercise.

It is important to note that researchers are still trying to learn more about how the Wim Hof breathing technique affects the brain and metabolic activity, mental health, the immune and nervous system, inflammation, physical endurance, and pain.

Here are some of the proven benefits of this method of breathing.

  1. Immune Response and Inflammation

    The Wim Hof Method of breathing has been found to have implications for treating inflammatory conditions, especially autoimmune disorders. There is a lot of research that supports this.

    A recent study in 2019 looked at the effect of an eight-week course of the Wim Hof Method on adults who had axial spondyloarthritis, which is a type of inflammatory disease of the joints.(10, 11) The participants who were in the Wim Hof Method course experienced a reduction in several inflammatory markers in the body as compared to the control group.

    Furthermore, participants in a landmark 2014 study practiced the Wim Hof Method of breathing, meditation and were also put in ice cold water.(12) The study was conducted by the Yale University School of Medicine in Connecticut. The results of the study showed that it was possible to voluntarily influence the immune system and the sympathetic nervous system. This was believed to be because of the anti-inflammatory effect produced by the Wim Hof Method techniques. People who learned this method were also found to have lesser flu-like symptoms after being immersed in the ice cold water.

  2. Control of the Nervous System

    It is known that Hof himself participated in several studies in order to gather support and lend credibility to his breathing technique. In 2018, a Brain Over Body case study was carried out on Wim Hof.(13) The study found that Hof was able to withstand extremely cold temperatures by creating an artificial stress response in his body.

    Researchers concluded that the brain, instead of the body, helped Hof withstand and respond to the cold exposure. The study also suggested that it was possible for people to learn how to control their autonomic nervous system to cause similar changes.

    The 2014 study done by Yale University also showed elevated levels of plasma epinephrine, which is a major neurotransmitter of the central nervous system, in the people who learned and practiced the Wim Hof Method.(12)

  3. Athletic Performance

    Studies carried out on how the Wim Hof Method impacts athletic performance and endurance have found mixed results. In 2021, a study carried out on 15 amateur athletes found that one session of the Wim Hof Method breathwork had no impact on their repeated sprinting performance.(14) However, it was found that participants preferred to sprint after performing the Wim Hof breathwork as compared to the control group, but there was no measurable performance difference between the two groups.

    On the other hand, another study done recently in 2020 found that just a single session of practicing the Wim Hof breathing method improved cycling performance by boosting the time it takes for oxygen delivery to respond to the demands of cycling and decreasing the perception of strain.(15)

    In this study, all the members who had participated in the Wim Hof breathing group managed to complete the exercises, but five participants from the control group were not able to due to fatigue.

Does the Wim Hof Method Work?

All those people who have practiced the Wim Hof Method breathwork technique can attest that the method definitely does have some physiological effects. People can feel many sensations come up when practicing the breathing technique, including muscle cramps, swallowing, ringing in the ears, seeing colors, and feeling strong emotions.

However, many people do wonder whether these are just a side effect of controlled hyperventilation or if it is a sign of something more profound happening inside the body.
Many people have also reported that the Wim Hof Method has helped them manage their stress, allowing their bodies to reset and giving them some quiet time to process their emotions.

More research is needed to understand just how this method works to bring about the benefits that its practitioners claim to feel. Researchers also need to learn if the benefits being achieved are because of the breathing exercises, cold exposure, or meditation. There is also a need to determine if the physiological effects of the Wim Hof Method are long-term or only short-term.

At present, there is ongoing research going on in the Netherlands and the United States on exploring the effects of the Wim Hof Method on brain activity, mental health, pain, and inflammation.(16)

Are There Any Precautions To Take While Practicing The Wim Hof Method?

It is important to note that the research supporting the use of the Wim Hof Method has been increasing steadily in recent years. However, there are some potential contraindications and dangers as well associated with the practice.

It is necessary to always practice the Wim Hof Method in a safe environment where, if you end up losing consciousness, you will rest assured that you will not hit your head against a hard object. Fainting is possible in some cases, and if you fall, you may get injured. It is not advisable to practice the breathwork in or near water or when you are driving a car.

The Wim Hof Method should not be practiced by anyone who has a history of the following:

Pregnant women should also avoid doing this.


The Wim Hof Method is made up of breathing techniques, cold exposure, and a commitment to the practice. It is the breathing technique that is the foundation of this method. Research into the benefits of the Wim Hof Method is ongoing, and while the results are mixed, it is visible that the breathwork technique does have an impact on inflammation and stress. However, it is never advisable to start this technique without talking to your doctor first. So always make sure to consult your health provider and then only begin something new.


  1. Hof, W., 2020. The Wim Hof method: Activate your potential, transcend your limits. Random House.
  2. Allen, J.J., 2018. Characteristics of users and reported effects of the Wim Hof method: A mixed-methods study (Master’s thesis, University of Twente).
  3. Marko, D., Bahenský, P., Bunc, V., Grosicki, G.J. and Vondrasek, J.D., 2022. Does Wim Hof Method Improve Breathing Economy during Exercise?. Journal of Clinical Medicine, 11(8), p.2218.
  4. Moyles, D., Wim Hof Method Explained.
  5. Hof, W., 2020. The Wim Hof Method: Activate Your Full Human Potential. Sounds True.
  6. Suppmann, F.L., 2021. Reported psychological effects of the Wim Hof method: an interview study (Master’s thesis, University of Twente).
  7. Hof, W., 2020. The Wim Hof method: Activate your potential, transcend your limits. Random House.
  8. Ingold, T., 2020. On breath and breathing: A concluding comment. Body & Society, 26(2), pp.158-167.
  9. Wimhofmethod.com. 2022. The Benefits of Breathing Exercises | Wim Hof Method. [online] Available at: <https://www.wimhofmethod.com/breathing-exercises> [Accessed 15 August 2022].
  10. Buijze, G.A., De Jong, H.M.Y., Kox, M., van de Sande, M.G., Van Schaardenburg, D., Van Vugt, R.M., Popa, C.D., Pickkers, P. and Baeten, D.L.P., 2019. An add-on training program involving breathing exercises, cold exposure, and meditation attenuates inflammation and disease activity in axial spondyloarthritis–A proof of concept trial. PloS one, 14(12), p.e0225749.
  11. Sieper, J. and Poddubnyy, D., 2017. Axial spondyloarthritis. The Lancet, 390(10089), pp.73-84.
  12. Kox, M., van Eijk, L.T., Zwaag, J., van den Wildenberg, J., Sweep, F.C., van der Hoeven, J.G. and Pickkers, P., 2014. Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(20), pp.7379-7384.
  13. Muzik, O., Reilly, K.T. and Diwadkar, V.A., 2018. “Brain over body”–A study on the willful regulation of autonomic function during cold exposure. NeuroImage, 172, pp.632-641.
  14. Citherlet, T., Crettaz von Roten, F., Kayser, B. and Guex, K., 2021. Acute effects of the wim hof breathing method on repeated sprint ability: a pilot study. Frontiers in Sports and Active Living, p.211.
  15. Bahenský, P., Marko, D., Grosicki, G.J. and Malátová, R., 2020. Warm-up breathing exercises accelerate VO^ sub 2^ kinetics and reduce subjective strain during incremental cycling exercise in adolescents. Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 20(6), pp.3361-3367.
  16. Anon, Discover the science behind the wim hof method. Wim Hof Method. Available at: https://www.wimhofmethod.com/science [Accessed August 16, 2022].
Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:September 23, 2022

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