Updated: Jul 25
Here is the breakdown of the latest study from May 2022.
The researchers who made the Wim Hof Method famous with their original study (1) have published a new one (2). They used 40 - 48 individuals put through two studies (3).
In the latest Breathing Exercises Study, they tested the so-called guru effect in several cases to see if an independent trainer would have a similar impact as Wim's guidance. It turned out that the participants got to the same high adrenaline/epinephrine levels. Interestingly though, with Wim's guidance, they peaked in 30 minutes compared to 90 minutes by the instructor.
They tested if four days of guided training with homework to practice would improve the effects over time compared to a single session. The single session had the same effectiveness.
They discovered that adding more extended breath holds, which creates hypoxia, to the breathwork slightly increases the duration of elevated adrenaline. However, it's debatable if that's a positive.
They saw that if participants did a breathwork session in the morning and an identical one in the afternoon 1.5 hours later, the boost in adrenaline was significantly lower, potentially due to an adaptive stress response. They noted a study in animals that showed it took at least 2 hours to replenish the stress response and predicted it might take even longer in humans.
This finding is helpful if you're consciously using stress-boosting protocols to keep your immune system strong. For example, if you are stacking the five powerful adrenaline-inducing activities, breathwork, cold exposure, heat exposure, exercise, and fasting, 2 hours or more in between may be best.
After they determined that a single session of breathwork without breath holds by an independent trainer would be sufficient to increase plasma adrenaline levels, they moved on to the Endotoxemia Study.
The Endotoxemia study consisted of four tested groups:
- Cold exposure
- Breathing exercises without retentions
- Cold exposure plus breathing exercises without retentions
- Untrained control group
The cold exposure protocols were:
- 30 min barefoot in the snow
- lying in a box of snow for up to 20 min
- sitting or swimming in ice water for 3 min
The snow box was hilarious! Check out the video:
They determined that while cold exposure did help participants have fewer symptoms after being injected with the endotoxin, it did not significantly improve the plasma cytokine levels. However, the breathwork did, and when adding the cold plus breathwork, the lowering of inflammatory markers got an additional 40% boost.
According to the study, Wim's intuition was correct all along. I've heard him say cold exposure is excellent from many things, but the breathwork was king.
I hope that breakdown was helpful. Massive thanks to my mom, a long-time emergency room triage nurse and nurse practitioner, who helped me break it down with some healthy debates.
Here are some excellent additional links.
Written instructions for breathing exercises plus the data charts for the study:
Please let me know if this is useful.