Wim Hof breathing technique

Cold Water Immersion and Breath Work with Wim Hof

Breathing work, meditation, cold immersion - pretty standard pedorthic care right? 

Breathing work, meditation, cold immersion – pretty standard pedorthic care right?  Not really, but at SoleFit we like to consider ourselves ‘functional pedorthists’ and even though we specialize on the lower body and biomechanics, we feel it’s so important to keep our minds open to other ‘outside the box’ factors that can influence these areas and our health in general.  SoleFit pedorthist Ryan Grant took in a seminar with Wim Hof aka ‘The Iceman’ this past weekend at UBC and here are his takeaways!

Wim Hof with SoleFit pedorthist Ryan Grant

SoleFit Pedorthist Ryan Grant (LT) and the ‘Iceman’ Wim Hof (RT).

I remember first hearing about Wim Hof many years ago when I read about his world record for running a half marathon above the arctic circle (temperatures below -20 degrees celsius) in nothing but a pair of shorts.  Since then he has gone on to set numerous world records for survival in cold and hot temperatures, a summit attempt of Mount Everest in nothing but shorts and boots (made it to 22,000ft but had to turn around due to foot injury), and many other incredible physical feats.  Like many, I initially put this off to him being an anomaly that obviously has a unique physiology to be able to handle such extremes.  However, in the last couple of years, Wim Hof has been challenging scientists to test him in clinical trials to prove that what he does is not unique to him and is in fact accessible to all of us.  Because who wouldn’t want to be able to run a half marathon in sub zero temperatures in a pair of shorts?!?

Wim Hof has been challenging scientists to test him in clinical trials to prove that what he does is not unique to him and is in fact accessible to all of us.

Those who’ve heard Wim Hof speak (podcasts here with him on Tim Ferris, and Rich Roll) will know he’s an extremely eccentric yet engaging speaker!  Several years ago, he introduced what he calls ‘The Wim Hof Method‘ which includes elements of breathing work, meditation, and cold water immersion.  He makes some very bold claims which we should question, but what’s unique about Wim Hof is that he has gone directly to scientists to try and prove him wrong.  Among the claims of the Wim Hof Method;

Breath work  

  • Expels carbon dioxide and bombards the the body with oxygen.  Who doesn't want a bit more oxygen?
  • Makes the blood more alkaline (and thus less acidic) by reducing carbon dioxide and increasing oxygen.   This alkaline state has been shown to cause a reduction in pain and at the same time help to calm the body.  Interesting to note that when holding your breath, the need to breath is controlled more by the buildup of carbon dioxide than by the need for oxygen (when doing his breathing, you almost immediately drastically increase your ability to hold your breath).
  • Allows us to slowly take control over our autonomic nervous system.  The autonomic nervous system is the part of the nervous system responsible for control of the bodily functions such as breathing, immune response, the heartbeat, and digestive processes.  This was previously thought to be outside of our conscious control but Wim Hof's methods have indicated that maybe we do have more control over these processes than we thought.

Cold water immersion

  • Causes short term immune system repression which helps to control inflammation.
  • Strengthens cardiovascular system (veins and arteries) by forcing them to move blood around to keep you warm.
  • Can trigger the utilization of brown fat.  Brown fat is the fat that burns calories to produce heat.  White fat on the other hand, stores calories.
  • Increases metabolism.  Your body needs to work to produce more heat!
  • Exposure to cold can make us much more resilient to cold - "that which does not kill us makes us stronger"!



Here’s a short video that does a good job of explaining some of the basics.  For those that want a bit more science, check this link.

‘The Wim Hof Method’ recently released a free app that can help guide you a bit if starting out with his breathing and cold water immersion practice.  Make sure you check out the recommended warnings before starting, but it’s a great way to give it a try! 

Wim hof app
health and wellness wim hof
better health with cold water immersion

Screenshots from the new (free) ‘Wim Hof Method’ app.  Can be a helpful tool to get you started!

Where this might be of benefit to our patients is that cold exposure and breath work can potentially influence positive changes at the level of the autonomic nervous system, fat metabolism, and pH regulation to promote healing, decrease cell damage, and decrease inflammation. 

As always, we’d love to hear any comments that you may have and definitely let us know if you have any questions!  To keep up with blog posts, health tips, and upcoming events be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter!

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