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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Ashby

The Key To Better Health: A freezing Cold Swim?

Updated: May 6, 2023


Picture: Unsplash


Did you start your day with a nice warm shower this morning? How about starting it with a cold - or even freezing cold - shower, bath, or swim instead? Wim Hof does! with amazing benefits for both physical and mental health, you may have seen or heard that it’s incorporated in the Wim Hof Method, which features on BBC One’s Freeze The Fear. Here’s what you need to know about The Iceman, Wim Hof, and why you should consider exposing yourself to the cold to enjoy better health.


Who is Wim Hof?


Perhaps you’ve seen Wim Hof on BBC One’s Freeze the Fear? The 63-year-old Dutch extreme endurance athlete is on the TV show to guide eight celebrities through a series of challenges in sub-zero temperatures. Also known as The Iceman, Wim Hof has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts and sandals, ran a half-marathon above the Arctic Circle barefoot, swam in water so cold his corneas froze, and won 26 Guinness World Records!


Wim Hof has been stepping into icy water since he was a teenager. But when his first wife died in 1995, he found plunging himself into ice helped him to manage his grief. Along with other principles surrounding breathing, commitment, and mindset, the Wim Hof Method emerged.


And Wim Hof says he might have been able to save his wife from taking her own life had he known the benefits for mental health before she died.


What is The Wim Hof Method?

The Wim Hof Method (WHM) consists of three core principles, one of which is exposure to cold temperatures. That’s where the cold water swim comes in. Cold water therapy or Cold Water Immersion (CWI) is the practice of immersing yourself in cold water.

The WHM centres around the theory that, over time, human beings have become disconnected from their natural environment and the functions they need to survive.

For example, although we have an innate ability to adapt to extreme temperatures, modern-day comforts mean we no longer need to tap into this inner power. By reawakening this powerful force within, we can reconnect with ourselves, others, and nature.

The benefits associated with the Wim Hof Method.

  • Improved cardiovascular circulation, which is beneficial for a healthy heart

  • Reduced stress levels

  • Mental health benefits

  • Stronger immune system

  • Increased energy

  • Better sleep

  • Improved sports performance

  • Heightened focus and determination

  • Relief from symptoms of autoimmune disease

  • Relief from fibromyalgia, migraine

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Balanced hormone levels

Sounds good, right?


Plunging yourself in cold water causes a release of endorphins so you'll feel great. And there are even more advantages associated with Cold Water Immersion (CWI).


Facilitates Weight Loss

When you immerse yourself in cold water, your body has to work hard to maintain its normal internal temperature. As a result, when practised on a regular basis, Cold Water Immersion can increase the metabolic rate by as much as 16%, which can result in a loss of weight.


Improves Athletic Performance

Cold Water Immersion helps heal damaged muscles and reduce inflammation. After a high-intensity workout, your muscles can feel sore, called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The discomfort is caused by microscopic tears in the fibres of muscles. The cold water can help you train harder, recover faster, and enjoy improved sports or athletic performance.


How To use Cold Water Therapy


Cold therapy is one of three pillars that constitute the Wim Hof Method, along with breathing and commitment. The Wim Hof Method teaches you how to gradually expose your body to the cold by taking cold showers or ice baths to build up resistance and enjoy maximum benefits. You can learn more about the Method or sign up for sessions via the Wim Hof Website.


Alternatively, you can try cold water therapy for yourself:

  • Turn down the temperature of your shower gradually, or just go for it - take a cold shower. Start with 15 seconds and gradually build up the duration over time.

  • Add ice to your bath until the temperature is between 10ºC and 15ºC, and stay submerged for 10 to 15 minutes.

  • Swim in cold water.

If you choose to swim in cold water, plan ahead. Discuss the risks with your doctor. Never go alone, and make sure to warm up when you get out of the water by putting on warm, dry clothes and having a warm drink or snack.


Does Wim Hof have a point? Could we benefit from reconnecting with the basics of human survival? Could the stimulation of deep physiological processes, like when our bodies adapt to cold, lead to better physical and mental health? There’s one way to find out….


Now, where did you put those ice cube trays?


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