Wim Hof breathing & methods to strengthen the immune system

Sitting for almost 2 hours in a box of ice, climbing the highest mountains in the world in shorts and hanging on just one finger at a height of 2000 meters? No, these are not excerpts from the last James Bond film, but real events from the life of the Dutch extreme sportsman Wim Hof. Cold training, special breathing techniques and incredible mental concentration are the three factors that made these events possible! The scientifically recognized Wim Hof method is now practiced by numerous fans from various countries.


What is the Wim Hof method?

Breathing technique, cold training and mental training with the highest concentration inwards are the three core points of method2. Each of them can of course achieve an effect on its own, but only the combination of all three is maximally effective.

They should not be considered in isolation, but rather influence each other. It is therefore more about a symbiosis than about three single factors. The good news is that everyone can learn the Wim Hof method. To what extent you want to go with it is up to you.


The Wim Hof Breathing

Wim Hof breathing could be described as a kind of controlled hyperventilation. Its basic technique comes from the Tibetan meditation practice "Tummo". It provokes a consciously controlled, strong increase in body temperature while simultaneously immunizing against low ambient temperatures. The whole thing happens without external aids1.
There is a simple instruction for the Wim Hof breathing, although of course there are numerous variations. The best known is as follows:

Inhale and exhale deeply 15 times. This is followed by 30 power breaths, inhaling as deeply as possible through the nose and exhaling through the mouth with power. However, a residual amount of air should always be kept actively inside. The abdomen should actively move outwards and inwards. The breathing tempo should be very controlled but still fast. In the last step, inhale deeply one last time and control it through the mouth - this time all the air - exhale slowly and do not inhale again. You quasi hold the air, but after the exhalation. The chin should rest on the chest. It should remain in this position for as long as possible, in some people this is possible for 30 seconds at the beginning, one minute is already relatively advanced.
Afterwards you should breathe in again slowly for another 15 seconds. During this time you go back into yourself with full focus on your breathing3.


Cold Training

The cold training of the Wim Hof method is about exposing the body to freezing in order to train the vascular system, burn body fat and then release happiness hormones. These lead to an increased sense of well-being and thus also improve brain capacity and concentration. With the help of the breathing described above, one can hardly feel the otherwise almost unbearable cold and remain in it for longer2.

The cold training is increased in small steps. In the beginning, it is first about briefly setting the water to a very low temperature while taking a shower and using the Wim Hof breathing. This first experience with the Wim Hof method lets you already feel the strong positive effect of the cold training. The intervals and time of the ice shower can be increased from time to time. It is best to practice it daily. If you are willing to go further, you can expose yourself to more extreme and other cold situations: Ice baths, hiking in the snow or going to a professional cold chamber are some examples. However, they should be approached with caution and discussed beforehand with a doctor or someone in the field. It is best to get a Wim Hof coach for such goals.


Mental training and your body - one unit?

The third part of the Wim Hof method is based on the power of inner strength. It is about learning the connection between body and mind and having control over your thoughts and feelings2.
An important topic here is self-love and self-esteem: These two inner attitudes are acquired, because a positive self-image is the basis for powerful thoughts and inner strength. Also, the concentration on one single subject must be learned for the implementation of the Wim Hof lifestyle. According to Hof, multitasking is inefficient and for the breathing techniques alone, it must be possible to focus on this thing alone.
Sport and intensive weight training are prerequisites for a healthy hormone system and the reduction of internal stress. According to Wim Hof, physical training is extremely important for physical and mental health. Exercise should be integrated into daily life - even if the intensity may vary and it may be a walk in the woods one day and an intensive training session the next.

The Wim Hof method also takes the right nutrition into account, because just like exercise, it has a great influence on body and mind. Especially Omega 3 rich food, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and sufficient liquid in the form of tea, water and a little coffee are part of the concept. Sleep and regeneration are equally important for a healthy mindset and a fit body. For example, it is recommended to sleep at least seven to nine hours every night, because lack of sleep can upset the hormone system and promote depression4.


Science and effectiveness behind the Wim Hof method

There are already numerous studies that confirm the effectiveness of the Wim Hof method. Nevertheless, there is - as always with successful and well-known methods and people - criticism of the Wim Hof method. For example, it is doubted whether the positive effects on the immune system are really as strong as they are propagated. There are certainly also critics who have made experiences with the Wim Hof method themselves and are not yet completely convinced. However, it should be said that there are rarely methods that work for everyone in the world. In addition, there is always whether all three cornerstones mentioned above have been learned, considered and above all linked in good conscience.

Ultimately, Wim Hof breathing and the whole method as a whole are scientifically recognized and numerous studies have been conducted with it. For example, a study that appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2014 showed that the breathing technique actually causes an increase in adrenaline release, pulse rate and lye level of the blood. These findings strongly suggest that the immune system can be consciously controlled and regulated1. Many other scientific studies, which can be viewed on the Wim Hof website, confirm the effectiveness of the method. Thus, it seems to have indeed positive effects on performance improvement, the immune system, the healing of depression and many other diseases. Now everybody can gain his own experience and try out the Wim Hof method with the above description! Good luck!



1 Wikipedia (2020): Wim Hof. [https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wim_Hof; 05.12.2020].
2 Website of the Wim Hof Method (2020): [https://wimhof-methode.de; 05.12.2020].
3 Gotzler, Max (2017): Hole dir massenhaft Energie mit der Wim-Hof-Atemtechnik. Flowgrade. [https://www.flowgrade.de/blog/hole-dir-energie-mit-der-wim-hof-power-atmung/; 05.12.2020]
4 Hof, Wim (2020): How to improve mental health naturally. [https://www.wimhofmethod.com/improve-mental-health; 09.12.2020].


Ines Schulz
Ines Maria Schulz, geboren am 01.12.1992 in Basel, Schweiz hat auch dort den Master Of Education in Biologie und WAH abgeschlossen, womit sie den Grundstein für das Verständnis von Physiologie und Anatomie sowie Ernährungslehre gesetzt hat. Zudem ist sie ausgebildete Sportlehrerin für die Grundschule. Seit zwei Jahren ist sie Coach bei MTM Personal Training, dem erfolgreichsten Personal Training Studio in Berlin. Dort unterstützt sie täglich Kunden, die ihr maximales Potential bezüglich mentaler und physischer Gesundheit und ihrer Leistungsfähigkeit ausschöpfen möchten. In Kooperation mit Ärzten wie Dr. Dominik Nischwitz und einem Labor für Darmgesundheit sowie dem ständigen Austausch im Team kann sie ihre Kunden optimal über Training, Ernährung, Mikronährstoffe und Lifestyle beraten. Für MTM hat sie bereits ein Frühstücksbuch und einen grossen Teil eines Lifestyle Booklets verfasst. Zudem schreibt sie wöchentlich den Newsletter, in dem Ernährungstipps und von ihr kreierte Rezepte veröffentlicht werden. Ines hat bei verschiedensten erfolgreichen Coaches und Fachpersonen Seminare und Zertifikate absolviert und erweitert stetig ihre Kompetenz. Für Supz Nutrition ist die junge Trainerin seit Januar 2019 mit dem Verfassen von Blogartikeln aktiv.

Häufig gestellte Fragen

What is the Wim Hof Method?
Breathing technique, cold training and mental training with maximum inward concentration are the three core points of the method. Each one on its own can of course already achieve an effect, but only the combination of all three is maximally effective.
Wim Hof - how often should you use the method per week?
It is best to train the methods daily. At the beginning, you can start with short sessions, perhaps only a few minutes. The more often you do the method, the more effective it becomes.
What strengthens the defences in general?
Sport, exercise, a balance of sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system (stress & relax balance), a sugar-free natural diet without potential allergens. Sufficient micronutrients (Vit C, D3/K2, zinc, antioxidants), proper breathing techniques, fresh air, social contacts, good sleep, sufficient hydration (2-4l water daily) moderate exercise in the air (walks) and daily activities that fulfil you.
How do I strengthen my immune system through breathing?
With the Wim Hof method, the immune system is strengthened through breathing. Wim Hof breathing could be described as a kind of controlled hyperventilation. Its basic technique comes from the Tibetan meditation practice Tummo. This provokes a consciously controlled, strong increase in body temperature with simultaneous immunisation against low ambient temperatures. The whole thing happens without external aids.
How does the immune system work?
The body's own defence system prevents or impedes the entry of pathogens. In the process, invaders, cells foreign to the body, foreign substances, defective body cells (e.g. cancer cells) and virus-infected cells are eliminated. The immune system is very complex and consists of various components and mechanisms. Chemical and mechanical barriers ensure that many potential pathogens cannot get inside us in the first place. On a cellular level, it looks like we have white blood cells from the beginning, which are part of our immune system.
How does breathing work in relation to the nervous system?
The nervous system is strongly stimulated by a kind of hyperventilating breathing. This transmits stimuli that cause a strong increase in body temperature.
How long should you take a cold shower in the morning for a positive effect on fat burning and the immune system?
The cold training is increased in small steps. At the beginning, it is a matter of briefly setting the water to a very low temperature while showering and using the Wim Hof breathing, you can increase the time from 5 seconds over a few minutes. The intervals and time of the ice shower can be increased from time to time. It is best practised daily.

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