Wim Hof ([ʋɪm ɦɔf]; born 20 April 1959), also known as The Iceman, is a Dutch motivational speaker and extreme athlete noted for his ability to withstand low temperatures.[1] He previously held a Guinness World Record for swimming under ice and prolonged full-body contact with ice, and holds a record for a barefoot half marathon on ice and snow. He attributes these feats to his Wim Hof Method[2] (WHM), a combination of frequent cold exposure, breathing techniques and meditation. Hof has been the subject of several medical assessments and The New York Times bestselling book What Doesn't Kill Us[3] written by investigative journalist Scott Carney.

Wim Hof
Wim Hof.jpg
Wim Hof immersed in an ice bath on 24 March 2007, Rotterdam
Pronunciation[ʋɪm ɦɔf]
Born (1959-04-20) 20 April 1959 (age 63)
Sittard, Limburg
Other namesThe Iceman
OccupationExtreme athlete and motivational speaker
Websitehttps://www.wimhofmethod.com/ Edit this on Wikidata

Personal lifeEdit

Wim Hof was born in Sittard, Limburg, Netherlands, one of nine children.[4] Hof met his first wife Marivelle-Maria, also called “Olaya Rosino Fernandez” (born in 1960, from Basque Country, Spain) in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam in the garden of roses. She died by suicide in 1995 by jumping from an eight-story building. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia.[5] Wim Hof’s first relevant experiences with the cold go back to when he was 17: he felt a sudden urge to jump into the freezing cold water of the Beatrixpark canal.[6] The first relevant scientific investigation began in 2011 at Radboud University.[7] On 19 April 2011, the results of this study were broadcast on Dutch national television.[8][9]

Wim Hof MethodEdit

Hof markets a regimen called the Wim Hof Method (WHM), which involves willpower, exposure to cold water, and breathing techniques.[10]

Hof states that his method can reduce symptoms of several diseases including: rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. However, while hyperventilation might temporarily reduce inflammatory response to an injection of endotoxins,[11][12] Hof's claims have not been scientifically proven.[13]

Wouter van Marken Lichtenbelt, one of the scientists who studied Hof, said: "[Hof's] scientific vocabulary is galimatias. With conviction, he mixes in a non-sensical way scientific terms as irrefutable evidence."[14] However, Van Marken Lichtenbelt goes on to say: "When practicing the Wim Hof Method with a good dose of common sense (for instance, not hyperventilating before submerging in water) and without excessive expectations: it doesn't hurt to try."[14]

Studies on Hof individuallyEdit

In 2012, a case study led by a group of researchers in The Netherlands and published by the journal Psychosomatic Medicine titled The Influence of Concentration/meditation on Autonomic Nervous System Activity and the Innate Immune Response, found that his "concentration/meditation during ice immersion" greatly reduced his "ex vivo proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory cytokine response":

"The concentration/meditation technique used by this particular individual seems to evoke a controlled stress response. This response is characterized by sympathetic nervous system activation and subsequent catecholamine/cortisol release, which seems to attenuate the innate immune response."[15]

In 2014 an assessment compared Wim Hof and his identical twin brother Andre. The scientists had them practice Wim's breathing exercises, then exposed them to the lowest temperature that would not induce shivering. They concluded that, "No significant differences were found between the two subjects, indicating that a lifestyle with frequent exposures to extreme cold does not seem to affect BAT activity and CIT (cold-induced thermogenesis)." The researchers stated that the "results must be interpreted with caution given the low subject number and the fact that both participants practised the g-Tummo-like breathing technique."[16]

In 2018, a study published in the journal NeuroImage titled Brain over body–A study on the willful regulation of autonomic function during cold exposure, used a combination of fMRI and PET/CT imaging, and found, "forceful respiration results in increased sympathetic innervation and glucose consumption in intercostal muscle, generating heat that dissipates to lung tissue and warms circulating blood in the pulmonary capillaries. Our results provide compelling evidence for the primacy of the brain (CNS) rather than the body (peripheral mechanisms) in mediating the Iceman's [Wim Hof's] responses to cold exposure."[17]

Studies on Wim Hof MethodEdit

In 2014, a paper published in PNAS titled Voluntary Activation of The Sympathetic Nervous System and Attenuation of the Innate Immune Response In Humans, extended the 2012 case study of Wim Hof with a randomized group of twenty-four healthy volunteers, twelve of whom were trained with the Wim Hof Method:

"In conclusion, we demonstrate that voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system results in epinephrine release and subsequent suppression of the innate immune response in humans in vivo. These results could have important implications for the treatment of conditions associated with excessive or persistent inflammation, such as autoimmune diseases."[18]

In 2014, a report written by Geert A. Buijze, MD, PhD and Maria T. Hopman, MD, PhD titled Controlled Hyperventilation After Training May Accelerate Altitude Acclimatization, dealt with the effects of the Wim Hof Method on acute mountain sickness (AMS). During an expedition to Mt. Kilimanjaro, a group of 26 trekkers who were trained in the Wim Hof Method used the breathing techniques to largely prevent and, if needed, reverse symptoms of AMS:

"In comparison with previous studies,4,5 this report may suggest that acclimatization, as well as AMS symptom relief, can be safely accelerated. Based on previous data, it was expected that the majority of our group would experience severe AMS. All 26 trekkers had symptoms of AMS to some extent, but even without prophylaxis, none had severe AMS. Even though we discourage (very) rapid ascent because of potentially lethal risks, we consider these outcomes of potentially great relevance for the prevention and treatment of AMS, as well as for rescue teams needing to ascend fast with little time for acclimatization. Further research is warranted to expand or revise our understanding of the physiology and treatment of these conditions."[19]

In 2015, a proof-of-principle study titled The Role of Outcome Expectancies for a Training Program Consisting of Meditation, Breathing Exercises, and Cold Exposure on the Response to Endotoxin Administration, demonstrated that the WHM can attenuate the inflammatory response, "through practicing techniques that are relatively easy to learn within a short time frame", but "It remains to be determined whether the results of this study using an acute model of inflammation in healthy volunteers can be extrapolated to patients with chronic autoimmune diseases."[20]

In 2018, the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, conducted a survey asking people around the world what impact the Wim Hof method had on their lives. More than 3,200 people responded.[21] In 2019, a proof of concept trial titled Battling Arthritis-An add-on training program involving breathing exercises, cold exposure, and meditation attenuates inflammation and disease activity in axial spondyloarthritis, concluded that: "There was a significant decrease in ESR levels and ASDAS-CRP upon the add-on training program in the intervention group. These findings warrant full-scale randomised controlled trials of this novel therapeutic approach in patients with inflammatory conditions."[22]

In 2020, an article titled Involvement of lactate and pyruvate in the anti-inflammatory effects exerted by voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system, concluded that: "Practicing the breathing exercises acquired during the training program results in enhanced activity of the Cori cycle, and next to the previously established relationship between epinephrine and IL-10 induction, the current data indicate a role of lactate and pyruvate in the enhanced production of this key anti-inflammatory mediator and in the overall anti-inflammatory phenotype observed in trained subjects."[23]

A 2021 pilot study on fifteen sprinters concluded that the WHM caused side effects and "did not enhance any performance parameter (peak power, average power, and FI) in later sprint sets." The researchers concluded that "Based on the results found in this study, we do not recommend applying this method with the view of improving performance, at least not for repeated sprinting."[24]

In 2022, a pilot study titled The Effects of Cold Exposure Training and a Breathing Exercise on the Inflammatory Response in Humans showed that:

"The combination of cold exposure training and a breathing exercise most potently attenuates the in vivo inflammatory response in healthy young males. Our study demonstrates that the immunomodulatory effects of the intervention can be reproduced in a standardized manner, thereby paving the way for clinical trials."[25]

A 2022 study found that a "4 week intervention exercise based on the pillar of the Wim Hof breathing method was not effective in improving the breathing economy of adolescent elite endurance runners." The authors recommended proven interventions such as yogic breath training instead.[26]

Method-related deathsEdit

At least nine people have died while attempting the Wim Hof Method.[27] Four practitioners drowned in 2015 and 2016, and relatives suspected the breathing exercises were to blame.[28][29] In 2021, a Singaporean man drowned in a condominium pool when attempting the method.[30] At least one person has died from a heart attack after cold-water immersion.[31] The leading cause of death with Wim Hof Method-related activities seems to be shallow water blackout where practitioners hyperventilate in or around water and unexpectedly lose consciousness. Though Wim Hof's safety video explicitly states doing breathwork in water is dangerous[32], Wim Hof has been filmed teaching deep-breathing techniques to instructors in water as late as 2023.[33]

Records and stuntsEdit

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Hof claimed to have acquired a total of 26 world records, though no systematic evaluation of these records is listed anywhere.[34]

Fastest half-marathon barefoot on ice and snowEdit

The fastest half marathon run while barefoot on ice or snow is 2 hr 16 min 34 sec by Hof near Oulu, Finland, on 26 January 2007. Done for the Discovery Channel program Real Super-humans and the Quest for the Future Fantastic, this is the only current Guinness record in Hof's name.[35]

Swimming under iceEdit

On 16 March 2000, Hof set the Guinness World Record for farthest swim under ice on his second attempt, with a distance of 57.5 metres (188.6 feet).[36] Hof's first attempt the day before failed when he began his swim without goggles and his corneas froze solid and blinded him. A rescue diver pulled him to the surface after he passed out.[37] The record has been broken several times since and is 265 feet (81 m) as of 2022.[36][38]

Full-body contact with iceEdit

Hof has set the world record for longest time in direct, full-body contact with ice, 1 hour, 44 minutes in January 2010.[39] Hof's record has been broken several times and as of 2021 it stands at 3 hours, 28 seconds.[40]

Mountaineering in shortsEdit

In 2007, Hof climbed to an altitude of 7,400 metres (24,300 ft) on Mount Everest wearing nothing but shorts and shoes, but aborted the attempt due to a recurring foot injury. He managed to climb from base camp to about 6,700 metres (22,000 ft) wearing just shorts and sandals, but after that he had to wear boots.[41]

In 2016, Hof reached Gilmans Point on Mount Kilimanjaro with journalist Scott Carney in 28 hours, an event later documented in the book What Doesn't Kill Us.[42]


Cover of Becoming the Iceman
  • Hof, Wim (1998). Klimmen in stilte [Climbing in silence] (in Dutch). Altamira. ISBN 9789069634395.
  • Hof, Wim (2000). De top bereiken is je angst overwinnen [Reaching the top is overcoming your fear] (in Dutch). Andromeda. ISBN 9789055991136.
  • Hof, Wim; Rosales, Justin (2012). Becoming the Iceman : pushing past perceived limits. Mill City Press. ISBN 9781937600464.
  • Hof, Wim; Jong, Koen A.M. de (2015). Koud kunstje : wat kun je leren van de iceman?. Uitgeverij Water. ISBN 9789491729256.
  • Carney, Scott and Wim Hof (introduction). (2017) What Doesn't Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength. ISBN 9781635652413
  • Hof, Wim (2020). The Wim Hof Method. Penguin Random House. ISBN 9781846046292.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Shea, Daisy-May Hudson and Matt (16 July 2015). "ICEMAN". Vice. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  2. ^ "Welcome to the Official Wim Hof Method Website". www.wimhofmethod.com. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  3. ^ Carney, Scott (2017). What doesn't kill us : how freezing water, extreme altitude, and environmental conditioning will renew our lost evolutionary strength. Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale. ISBN 9781623366919.
  4. ^ Hof & Rosales 2012, p. 10.
  5. ^ Joe Rogan (interviewer) and Wim Hof (21 October 2015). Wim Hof (podcast). Joe Rogan Experience. Vol. 712. Joe Rogan. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  6. ^ Elliott, Bryan (23 November 2021). "Behind the Brand with Wim Hof". Inc.com. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  7. ^ "Research on 'Iceman' Wim Hof suggests it may be possible to influence autonomic nervous system and immune response". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  8. ^ Wim Hof a.k.a. The Ice Man, Science Breakthrough! 19 April 2011, retrieved 26 August 2022
  9. ^ "Zoeken". EenVandaag (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 August 2022.
  10. ^ Wollaston, Sam (13 April 2022). "'Can I get out now please?': Could Wim Hof help me unleash my body's inner power?". The Guardian.
  11. ^ Houtman, Anne; Scudellari, Megan; Malone, Cindy; Singh-Cundy, Anu (2015). "22. Endocrine and immune systems" (PDF). Biology Now. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 388–405. ISBN 978-0393906257. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  12. ^ Kox, M.; van Eijk, L. T.; Zwaag, J.; van den Wildenberg, J.; Sweep, F. C. G. J.; van der Hoeven, J. G.; Pickkers, P. (20 May 2014). "Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111 (20): 7379–7384. Bibcode:2014PNAS..111.7379K. doi:10.1073/pnas.1322174111. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 4034215. PMID 24799686.
  13. ^ "Wim Hof, the Iceman | Science-Based Medicine". sciencebasedmedicine.org. 12 January 2021. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  14. ^ a b van Marken Lichtenbelt, Wouter (11 July 2017). "Who is the Iceman?". Temperature. 4 (3): 202–205. doi:10.1080/23328940.2017.1329001. PMC 5605164. PMID 28944263.
  15. ^ Kox, Matthijs; Stoffels, Monique; Smeekens, Sanne P.; van Alfen, Nens; Gomes, Marc; Eijsvogels, Thijs M.H.; Hopman, Maria T.E.; van der Hoeven, Johannes G.; Netea, Mihai G.; Pickkers, Peter (June 2012). "The Influence of Concentration/Meditation on Autonomic Nervous System Activity and the Innate Immune Response: A Case Study". Psychosomatic Medicine. 74 (5): 489–494. doi:10.1097/PSY.0b013e3182583c6d. PMID 22685240. S2CID 22707980. Retrieved 2 October 2021.
  16. ^ Vosselman, Maarten J; Vijgen, Guy H E J; Kingma, Boris R M; Brans, Boudewijn; Lichtenbelt, Wouter D van Marken (11 July 2014). "Frequent extreme cold exposure and brown fat and cold-induced thermogenesis: a study in a monozygotic twin". PLOS ONE. 9 (7): e101653. Bibcode:2014PLoSO...9j1653V. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101653. PMC 4094425. PMID 25014028.
  17. ^ Muzik O, Reilly KT, Diwadkar VA (15 May 2018). ""Brain over body" A study on the willful regulation of autonomic function during cold exposure". NeuroImage. 172: 632–641. doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2018.01.067. PMID 29438845. S2CID 3341846. Retrieved 22 September 2021.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. ^ Kox, Matthijs; van Eijk, Lucas T.; Zwaag, Jelle; van den Wildenberg, Joanne; Sweep, Fred C. G. J.; van der Hoeven, Johannes G.; Pickkers, Peter (20 May 2014). "Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 111 (20): 7379–7384. Bibcode:2014PNAS..111.7379K. doi:10.1073/pnas.1322174111. ISSN 0027-8424. PMC 4034215. PMID 24799686.
  19. ^ Buijze, Geert A.; Hopman, Maria T. (December 2014). "Controlled hyperventilation after training may accelerate altitude acclimatization". Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. 25 (4): 484–486. doi:10.1016/j.wem.2014.04.009. ISSN 1545-1534. PMID 25443751.
  20. ^ van Middendorp, Henriët; Kox, Matthijs; Pickkers, Peter; Evers, Andrea W. M. (April 2016). "The role of outcome expectancies for a training program consisting of meditation, breathing exercises, and cold exposure on the response to endotoxin administration: a proof-of-principle study". Clinical Rheumatology. 35 (4): 1081–1085. doi:10.1007/s10067-015-3009-8. ISSN 1434-9949. PMC 4819555. PMID 26194270.
  21. ^ Motivation and Experiences of Wim Hof Method Practitioners, retrieved 23 August 2022
  22. ^ Buijze, G. A.; Jong, H. M. Y. De; Kox, M.; Sande, M. G. van de; Schaardenburg, D. Van; Vugt, R. M. Van; Popa, C. D.; Pickkers, P.; Baeten, D. L. P. (2 December 2019). "An add-on training program involving breathing exercises, cold exposure, and meditation attenuates inflammation and disease activity in axial spondyloarthritis – A proof of concept trial". PLOS ONE. 14 (12): e0225749. Bibcode:2019PLoSO..1425749B. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0225749. ISSN 1932-6203. PMC 6886760. PMID 31790484.
  23. ^ Zwaag, Jelle; ter Horst, Rob; Blaženović, Ivana; Stoessel, Daniel; Ratter, Jacqueline; Worseck, Josephine M.; Schauer, Nicolas; Stienstra, Rinke; Netea, Mihai G.; Jahn, Dieter; Pickkers, Peter; Kox, Matthijs (April 2020). "Involvement of Lactate and Pyruvate in the Anti-Inflammatory Effects Exerted by Voluntary Activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System". Metabolites. 10 (4): 148. doi:10.3390/metabo10040148. ISSN 2218-1989. PMC 7652234. PMID 32290188.
  24. ^ Citherlet, Tom; Crettaz von Roten, Fabienne; Kayser, Bengt; Guex, Kenny (25 August 2021). "Acute Effects of the Wim Hof Breathing Method on Repeated Sprint Ability: A Pilot Study". Frontiers in Sports and Active Living. 3: 700757. doi:10.3389/fspor.2021.700757. PMC 8424088. PMID 34514386.
  25. ^ Zwaag, Jelle; Naaktgeboren, Rick; van Herwaarden, Antonius E.; Pickkers, Peter; Kox, Matthijs (1 May 2022). "The Effects of Cold Exposure Training and a Breathing Exercise on the Inflammatory Response in Humans: A Pilot Study". Psychosomatic Medicine. 84 (4): 457–467. doi:10.1097/PSY.0000000000001065. ISSN 1534-7796. PMC 9071023. PMID 35213875.
  26. ^ Marko, David; Bahensky, Petr; Bunc, Vaclav; Grosicki, Gregory (15 April 2022). "Does Wim Hof Method Improve Breathing Economy during Exercise?". Journal of Clinical Medicine. 11 (8): 2218. doi:10.3390/jcm11082218. PMC 9028328. PMID 35456308.
  27. ^ "Wim Hof Mehod Deaths and Incidents". Google Docs. Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  28. ^ Tijmstra, Fannie; Bomers, Loes (10 June 2016). "'Iceman' onder vuur" ['Iceman' under fire] (in Dutch). EenVandaag. Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  29. ^ Duin, Roelf Jan (2 July 2016). "'Iceman'-oefening eist opnieuw leven" ['Iceman' exercise claims a new life]. Het Parool (in Dutch). Retrieved 23 February 2019.
  30. ^ "Coroner cautions against practising Wim Hof breathing method underwater after man drowns". CNA. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  31. ^ "Woman tragically dies after cold water therapy session favoured by celebs". finance.yahoo.com. Retrieved 31 January 2023.
  32. ^ Wim Hof Method | Safety Information, retrieved 31 January 2023
  33. ^ 0. "Emalm video - Wim Hof Teaches Underwater Breathwork". emalm.com. Retrieved 31 January 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  34. ^ Hedegaard, Erik (3 November 2017). "Wim Hof Says He Holds the Key to a Healthy Life - But Will Anyone Listen?". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 30 August 2022.
  35. ^ "Fastest half marathon barefoot on ice/snow". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  36. ^ a b "Longest swim under ice - breath held (no fins, no diving suit)". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  37. ^ Hof, Wim (2012). Becoming the Iceman (1st ed.). Mill City Press. p. 33. ISBN 9781937600464.
  38. ^ Science Explains How the Iceman Resists Extreme Cold. Smithsonian Mag. January 2020. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  39. ^ Sunday, Alex (29 December 2010). "Dutchman Aims to Take Longest Ice Bath". CBS News. Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  40. ^ "Longest duration full body contact with ice". Guinness World Records. Retrieved 12 September 2022.
  41. ^ Kathmandu (29 May 2007). "Everest climber falls short". The Age. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  42. ^ "What Doesn't Kill Us by Scott Carney". PenguinRandomhouse.com. Retrieved 13 May 2020.

External linksEdit