Poet, naturalist, politician: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was many things – and not a weakling. They say that in winter he cut ice on the frozen Ilm to refresh his body and spirit in the icy water. What gives many people cold shivers just thinking about it gives cold-shock fans euphoria: ice baths.

More and more people are following the example of the great poet and voluntarily diving into the icy waters. Today Goethe could become a social media star. But this career was denied to him. Now others are taking on this work, for example, the Dutchman Wim Hof. 3.4 million people follow him on Instagram.

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Ice trend with history: the Wim Hof ​​method

Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman, is probably the most famous ice bather. His nickname is no coincidence: the extreme athlete holds many international cold records, including the record for the longest ice bath. The Wim Hof ​​Method he developed is based on three pillars:

  • a technique of intensive breathing, leading to hyperventilation, in which more carbon dioxide is exhaled,
  • Focus through meditation and
  • cold irritant.

Thousands of people around the world practice his method, which is taught online or in live workshops and is sometimes controversial. Because: Intensive breathing techniques and ice baths also pose risks. The Iceman reports this in his Web site also you yourself. The iceman’s students, mostly men who sometimes walk half-naked in the snow, and other enthusiastic ice bathers don’t let that take away from the frosty fun.

Wim Hof, Guinness World Record holder, ice bathing in Hong Kong in 2010.

© imago/Xinhua

Although Wim Hof ​​played a key role in spreading the ice bathing trend, the method is not a new invention – see Goethe. But long before Goethe, there were people who threw themselves into icy water.

Ice bathing, also known as winter bathing, has been practiced for centuries, especially in many Scandinavian countries. Is it really getting tougher? cannot be scientifically proven. That it can have a positive impact on overall well-being., on the other hand, yes. And much more happens in the body when cold shock occurs. Cold stimulus releases variety of physical reactions:

  • Cold water causes blood vessels to constrict and increases blood pressure.
  • The cold stimulus causes an increased release of certain hormones such as endorphins. These “happy hormones” reduce the perception of pain, improve mood, or even cause euphoria.
  • Research shows thisthat ice baths may have a positive effect on depression and anxiety disorders by increasing the release of messenger substances such as serotonin and dopamine.
  • Ice baths can increase resistance to stress because the cold forces the body and mind to adapt to unpleasant circumstances.
  • In response to cold shock, in addition to happy hormones, stress hormones such as adrenaline and norepinephrine are released, which make the body more efficient and promote concentration.
  • Researcher The Arctic University of Norway found outthat ice baths burn white fat, also called bad fat, because it activates brown fat. It’s again Calorie killer.
  • When you warm up after an ice bath, blood vessels dilate and more circulating blood flows through even the smallest tissue vessels. The cells are supplied with nutrients and oxygen and a pleasant feeling of intense warmth arises.
  • Cold trains blood vessels because cold causes them to contract and then expand.

Risks of Ice Bathing – Who Should Avoid It?

What Goethe could do, I can do too? Caution. People with health problems such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, vascular diseases such as Raynaud’s disease, or certain mental illnesses such as schizophrenia should not rush into the deep end.

Cardiologist Felix Ehrenfeld warns: “Cold water can trigger cardiac arrhythmia. The risk is especially increased in older people and people with previous illnesses.”

How to get used to ice swimming?

Even healthy people should take it slow, Ehrenfeld advises. This can also be done at home: “To start, for example, you can take a cold shower for half a minute and gradually increase the duration to about two minutes. If you are starting out in nature, you should not jump into cold water. , but get into the water slowly. For medical reasons, I would recommend visibility: to the knees, to the hips, to the heart, and then maybe all the way to the end.”

By the way, your head stays dry when you take an ice bath. Professionals in the water wear hats and gloves because a lot of heat is generated through the head and hands.

Tips for beginners:

  • Warm up well with exercises beforehand.
  • Be careful with breathing exercises that cause hyperventilation. Intense breathing techniques can lead to dizziness or even loss of consciousness and should generally only be practiced by healthy people.
  • Breathe calmly and evenly in cold water.
  • Enter cold water only if accompanied. In an emergency, first aid can be provided and assistance can be arranged.
  • Stay in the cold water for no more than two minutes, unless your name is Wim Hof ​​or you are an experienced ice bather.
  • Then dry well, put on thick clothes and quickly go into the warmth.

If you want to be on the safe side, get your doctor’s approval first. And then you can do like Goethe: “The cold becomes warm, the rich becomes poor, the fool becomes smart. There is a time for everything.” In this context, that means slowly introducing your body and mind to the cold, rather than allowing yourself to get carried away too quickly by an extreme and potentially dangerous trend.

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