Would you submerge yourself in an ice enclosure wearing nothing but tiny shorts?
But this is exactly the kind of thing Dutch man Wim (“The Iceman”) Hof likes to do.
In fact, Wim will happily immerse himself in ice for almost 2 hours and amazingly his core body temperature does not change.
Oh and he’s also climbed Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro wearing nothing but his shorts.
You might think a guy who holds 20 Guinness World records for his ability to withstand extreme temperatures is just a freak of nature.
However, Wim believes anyone can train themselves to do the same – and there are some pretty phenomenal health benefits in doing so.
Wim has developed the Wim Hof Method which promises students they can train their bodies to withstand extreme temperatures and in the process develop the ability to consciously control their immune system.
There are 3 key elements to the method:
Wim has a very specific rapid breathing technique (described as ‘controlled hyperventilation’) which makes you feel ‘high’ on oxygen. Some people even cry and release anger and other deep emotions when doing it. Wim claims this breathing provides complete oxygenation of blood and cells and you will quickly see improvements in your lung capacity.
Wim believes cold exposure works like weight lifting, you get stronger over time as the little muscles that surround your veins strengthen. Students of the Wim Hof Method practice cold shower therapy (i.e. having cold showers!). You will work your way up to having cold showers every day but Wim believes that once you get used to them (approximately 1 – 2 weeks) you will love them and won’t want to return to hot showers.
Meditation is important to bring awareness to your body and clear your mind. Hof says that the mental component of his method is the most vital part and plays a role in exerting control over the autonomic nervous system.
Put simply, Wim’s method is based on a primordial belief that the human body is designed to adapt and survive in ‘cold hard nature’ (just like our ancestors did before we introduced clothes and heating) and that, by breathing and concentration, we are in charge of ‘turning our own thermostat up’.
Hard to believe?
Its been scientifically tested.
In 2013, 24 participants were injected with a strain of Escherichia coli, a bacteria that normally induces violent sickness, fever and headaches for days on end.
None of the 12 people who had been trained in the Wim Hof Method for the previous 10 days experienced any sickness whatsoever and the 12 in the untrained control group were affected severely. The Wim Hof group were somehow able to suppress their immune response by making their bodies secrete adrenalin in high concentrations (higher than someone bungy jumping!). This is amazing when you consider that adrenalin is usually only released by your autonomic nervous system (meaning it’s involuntary – and current medical thinking agrees that humans cannot control the autonomic nervous system).
Wim truly is one of the most interesting people in the world and is exploring unchartered territory in the realm of physiology and biology. Check out his Ted Talk at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9Cgaa8U4eY