By now you may have seen various images of Wim Hof, also known as the “Ice Man”, meditating on a bed of cold snow. Alternatively, you may have seen him plunging his speedo-clad body into icy cold waters in the middle of winter. Wim Hof claims that these practices, when combined with the right intention and the correct breathing technique, can help to stimulate our bodies “inner fire” through various physiological processes.
The Health Benefits of Cold Therapy
Due to the proliferation of cold therapy as a healing modality in today’s modern world, more and more clinical studies and scientific research is being conducted around the effects of regular ice baths, cold exposure, and cyrotherapy; all forms of cold therapy.
While studies have produced conflicting results, it is believed that cold therapy provides numerous health benefits. Potential cold therapy benefits that especially caught our eye are:
- Enhanced immune function;
- Enhanced brain function, and;
- Improved mood.
The Proliferation of Ice Bathing
A quick search on the internet will show a plethora of YouTube influencers who swear by the beneficial effects of ice bathing. Men and women alike have incorporated ice baths into their daily routines. These vibrant-looking ice bathers proudly declare they will be practicing some form of cold therapy throughout their lives.
Anti-inflammatory & Immunity Boosting
One such woman, who goes by the name of “Sky Life”, learned the ice bath technique from the Ice Man himself during the filming of the documentary “Yes Theory”. A year later, she still practices the Wim Hof Method. Sky touts the practice for its ant-inflammatory effects and ability to boost the immune system. Both of which, we might add, are extremely important in your body’s ability’s to fight off viruses.
So let’s get down to the details…
What Is Cold Therapy?
Cold therapy can be practiced a number of different ways, including:
- Topical localized ice-therapy
- Ice baths
- Cold showers
It should be noted that you should consult your doctor and seek professional guidance before attempting to administer any type of cold therapy yourself.
Nature’s Ice Bath
For us here at West of Wild, our favorite form of cold therapy is done outside in nature. As seasoned ice bath practitioners and students of the Wim Hoff method, we prefer to do our cold therapy in a cold river, a frigid ocean, or barefoot on the snow.
If you don’t live in a place where natural forms of cold therapy are available, then a homemade ice bath works just as well. Where you do it, isn’t as important as how you do it, or how often you do it.
As with most holistic forms of therapy, consistency, good technique, and discipline are key to safely achieving the desired effects.
Cold Therapy For Beginners
An ice bath is one form of cold therapy. In an ice bath, your whole body, (or chosen extremities), are completely submerged in icy cold water. While submerged in the bath, the water level should rise to your collar bone.
In his free online mini course, Wim Hoff notes that it is important to be able to maintain deep calm breaths while you are exposing your body to the cold environment.
So if you can’t plunge yourself into an ice-bath without going into panic mode just yet, Wim Hoff recommends starting with a cold shower. Maybe even just getting your arms or legs wet. Then progressing slowly to expose your whole body to the cold water.
Cold Therapy & Immunity
A 2016 clinical trial in the Netherlands showed that people who took cold showers were 29 percent less likely to call off work than others. According to the study, cold therapy can potentially improve immune system function by fighting colds. It is thought that cold exposure increases leukocyte levels, which protect the body against diseases.
Cold Therapy & Cognitive Function
Cold therapy is thought to enhance mental focus by releasing catecholamines in the body. Additionally, it is thought to enhance focus by increasing noradrenaline in the brain.
Cold Therapy & Mood
By activating the sympathetic nervous system, and increasing the production of endorphins, cold therapy is thought to help regulate a person’s mood. The cold water may also have an antidepressant effect by activating cold receptors in the skin and sending electric impulses to the brain.