Anybody familiar with Wim Hof, the Dutch daredevil nicknamed The Iceman thanks to his ability to withstand sub-zero temperatures to world record levels, will know that his unique lifestyle is one that nobody should attempt to imitate directly.
However, Hof has trademarked the health benefits of his actions under the banner of The Wim Hof Technique – a series of exercises open to anybody that will provide all kinds of health benefits.
Chief among these are the burning of fat, making the Wim Hof Technique a fantastic way of staying trim if you're hardy enough, but a boost to the immune system is arguably the biggest boon.
Hof has worked with a number of researchers at top facilities all over the world in order to teach how to consciously and actively control the immune system, convincing your body to fight off diseases before they can take root – all with the noble goal and vision of a future world free of disease.
Does all of this sound too good to be true? Read on and learn more about the science behind the Wim Hof Technique and decide whether this is something that will work for you.
Hof is armament that anybody can learn from, and adopt, his teachings, which revolve around three core components - medications, cold therapy and breathing exercises. For an insight into how to embark upon these steps, take a look at our more indepth article on the method. Sometimes it's easier to show than tell in order to achieve the best results.
Of course, you would be well within your rights to question exactly how breathing exercises can assist with such a complex piece of organic machinery as the human immune system.
So HOW do breathing exercises assist the immune system?
According to the National Academy for Sciences, the act of controlled hyperventilating results in an increased release of adrenaline – more, in fact, than a first-time bungee jumper may experience, but without the psychological impact that stems from the stress of such an activity.
Controlled hyperventilating increases the release of adrenaline
This in turn allows more and more anti-inflammatory mediators to flood the body, increasing your pH levels and leaving you more tolerant of cold conditions – which is where the technique really comes into it's own.
Have you ever stepped into the shower expecting a comforting stream of warm water, only to leap out of your skin when you've discovered that it's actually stone cold?
This is because our body goes into shock when it encounters such freezing conditions, leading to a fight or flight response.
The shock from the cold launches lymphocytes as an immunity reaction
The upshot of this is that your body automatically launches lymphocytes as an immunity reaction, and the more your body does this, the stronger your immune system will become.
The more lymphocytes are called into action faster they will be respond
Like any muscle lymphocytes need to be exercised, and the more they are called into the action, the faster they will be able to respond when the immune system finds itself under attack from foreign invaders such as bacteria or viral infections.
Now, of course, it's important to note that you should not attempt to conquer Hof's ice bath world record after a couple of hyperventilating meditations.
Want to give it a go? Start small
Start small, with a brief cold-water shower – avoid getting your head wet until you have built a stronger immunity and tolerance, as this will not end well, and start with your feet, steadily moving higher up your body as your start to feel comfortable doing so.
You can gradually increase the time spent in this cold water over an extended period, until eventually you feel brave enough to slide into an ice bath of your own for a couple of minutes.
The lymphocytes inside your body will be almost anticipating such an action by this point, and will react with the appropriate speed.
It may never be fun, but if you have been vehement enough in your preparation it'll be tolerable – and you'll be thankful when the winter arrives and you do not succumb to the viral colds and sniffles that strike down all of those around you.
There is not yet any scientific evidence that the Wim Hof Technique is effective against existing diseases, but a great many researchers have been prepared to validate the process in terms of improvement of the generic immune system.
It will take a large amount of practice and commitment, as every instinct in the human brain and body is to get warm as soon as possible when it encounters cold conditions, but the rewards are truly remarkable and could pay off drastically in the future.