Should Scuba Divers Use the Wim Hof Method?

The man behind the method is unforgettable. Wim Hof, better known as the Iceman, has achieved unthinkable feats, pushing his body past what many thought physically possible. His secret? His self-developed method of combining strategic breathing, meditation, and cold exposure. Can the Wim Hof Method help scuba divers? Or is this another fitness fad that will do more harm than good?

What is the Wim Hof Method?

The Wim Hof Method is a unique combination of specialized breathing techniques, extended meditation, and progressively exposing your body to cold.

Wim claims that with daily practice of his breathing methods and meditation as well as appropriate cold exposure, you will be able to improve your immune system, saturate cells with oxygen and place them in an alkaline state, and tolerate harsh environments such as the frigid waters during a dive.

Benefits of the Wim Hof Method

You may have heard that Wim was able to hike Mount Everest in a pair of shorts, swim under a glacier, and do a marathon in the desert but he’s the exception, right? Science suggests that the Wim Hof Method is usable and beneficial to everyone from the Average Joe to the high-performance athlete.

IMMUNE SYSTEM BOOST: A popular study demonstrated that subjects taught by Wim were able to voluntarily activate their immune systems, triggering an anti-inflammatory response. Average people are able to have control over a system once thought to be beyond conscious control and this has incredible implications for disease risk and treatment.

INCREASE AVAILABLE OXYGEN: The Wim Hof Method may be an effective way to increase the amount of available oxygen in your body, which may have a range of benefits including acclimating faster to elevation and scuba diving for longer on the same tank of oxygen.

TOLERANCE TO COLD: Studies suggest that the Wim Hof Method may help your body adapt to cold environments in two ways: First, the repeated and progressive exposure may help the body to acclimate to the conditions of the cold. Second, the breathing techniques used may increase internal heat production due to the vigorous breathing contractions.

How Can the Wim Hof Method Help Scuba Divers?

Based on the scientific benefits of the Wim Hof Method, it’s possible that scuba divers could greatly benefit from incorporating this practice into their daily lives.

DIVE LONGER: The Wim Hof Method may provide an abundant flow of oxygen into the body, which may then be stored in cells. The implication is that you may be able to dive for longer periods of time because you wouldn’t be using as much oxygen.

TOLERATE COLD WATER: While you may be wearing a wet suit, that doesn’t mean you don’t feel the cold of the water when you dive. Practicing daily cold exposure by progressively increasing time in cold showers or ice baths may allow you to build up a better tolerance to cold environments without risking a shock to the immune system and subsequent illness.

AVOID DECOMPRESSION SICKNESS: Not everyone has a hyperbaric recompression chamber on hand to treat symptoms of the bends. With the Wim Hof Method, you may be able to avoid decompression sickness altogether as the body will be saturated with oxygen-rich, alkalized blood.

Have you used the Wim Hof Method?

If so, what benefits did you experience? Do you think it can really help with improving your scuba diving experience? Let me know in the comments below!

References

1. Kox M, van Eijk LT, Zwaag J, et al. Voluntary activation of the sympathetic nervous system and attenuation of the innate immune response in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2014;111(20):7379-7384. doi:10.1073/pnas.1322174111.

2. Buijze GA, Hopman MT. Controlled hyperventilation after training may accelerate altitude acclimatization. Wilderness Environ Med. 2014 Dec;25(4):484-6. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2014.04.009. Epub 2014 Oct 14.

3. Vosselman MJ, Vijgen GHEJ, Kingma BRM, Brans B, van Marken Lichtenbelt WD. Frequent Extreme Cold Exposure and Brown Fat and Cold-Induced Thermogenesis: A Study in a Monozygotic Twin. Romanovsky AA, ed. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(7):e101653. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101653.

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