What Doesn't Kill Us Book Summary - What Doesn't Kill Us Book explained in key points
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What Doesn't Kill Us summary

Scott Carney

How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude, and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength

4 (217 ratings)
17 mins
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    What Doesn't Kill Us
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    Reawakening resilience: Tapping into our evolutionary adaptations

    In our quest for comfort, modern society has inadvertently stifled a fundamental aspect of human biology: the ability to adapt to and thrive in varied environmental conditions. The conveniences that define contemporary life, such as climate-controlled surroundings and readily available food, have led to unintended consequences – like obesity, chronic illnesses, and a surge in autoimmune diseases.

    But look at our ancestors. They were attuned to a life of environmental challenges. The human body evolved to respond to and manage these stressors, not only to survive but to fortify itself. Such evolutionary responses are not irrevocably lost; they merely lie dormant, capable of being reawakened through exposure to conditions like extreme cold.

    The infamous Wim Hof, also known as “The Iceman,” brings this concept to life. Hof claims that he can control his body temperature and immune system through specialized breathing techniques and direct exposure to cold. Although developed independently over many years, his methods are reminiscent of practices from eastern traditions such as yoga. They allow him to perform extraordinary feats, like swimming under ice sheets.

    Hof’s claims are not without scientific merit. In fact, evidence suggests there is a physiological basis to Hof’s methods. Studies have indicated that he can indeed influence his immune response, stimulate brown fat to produce heat, and modify his blood chemistry. The science community is still unraveling how these abilities are possible and what their implications might be for the wider population.

    It seems that embracing extreme cold through practices like snow exposure, ice baths, and controlled breathing can lead to notable health benefits. These activities have been shown to improve endurance and assist in fat reduction. Physical challenges like ascending a frosty peak test the limits of these gains, yet they also highlight the risks, such as afterdrop. This is when the body’s core temperature continues to fall dangerously low even after one has warmed up.

    There’s evidence to suggest that, much like Neanderthals who might have used stores of brown fat to endure the cold, this same type of fat is present in modern humans. However, it’s largely inactive due to the constant warmth provided by contemporary lifestyles. Investigating how early humans digested food and managed body fat offers insight into the many health issues we face today, issues which could be addressed by reintroducing certain environmental stressors.

    The potential benefits of such stressors are significant; they could reactivate the body’s latent abilities, leading to improved health and resilience. Controlled exposure to the cold could be a key to unlocking these dormant capabilities, offering a counterbalance to the ailments that have emerged from our preference for constant comfort.

    In the next section, we’ll delve into the science and practice of the Wim Hof Method in more detail.

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    What is What Doesn't Kill Us about?

    What Doesn't Kill Us (2017) investigates the human body’s potential to overcome extreme environmental conditions through engaging with frigid temperatures and high altitudes. It presents a compelling argument for the health benefits of environmental conditioning and the ways it can help individuals reconnect with their evolutionary resilience. By outlining techniques that challenge the body’s comfort, it offers a glimpse into the potential for improved physical and mental fortitude.

    What Doesn't Kill Us Review

    What Doesn't Kill Us (2017) explores the groundbreaking methods of Dutch fitness guru Wim Hof and his ability to withstand extreme cold. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With thought-provoking insights into the power of the mind and body, it challenges conventional notions about human limits and the potential for personal transformation.
    • The book chronicles engrossing adventures and experiments as the author pushes himself to the brink, making it a thrilling and immersive read.
    • By shedding light on the benefits of reconnecting with nature and adopting natural techniques, it opens up new possibilities for improving physical and mental well-being.

    Who should read What Doesn't Kill Us?

    • Fitness enthusiasts interested in alternative training methods
    • Adventure sports athletes and trainers
    • Advocates of the paleo lifestyle and diet

    About the Author

    Scott Carney is an investigative journalist and anthropologist whose work blends narrative non-fiction with ethnography. He gained prominence with his best-selling book, What Doesn’t Kill Us, followed by The Wedge, which further explores the body’s capacity to adapt to various forms of stress. Carney’s writings often challenge preconceived notions about human limits and potential, earning him a reputation for immersive, participatory journalism.

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    What Doesn't Kill Us FAQs 

    What is the main message of What Doesn't Kill Us?

    Discover the power of embracing discomfort for physical and mental resilience.

    How long does it take to read What Doesn't Kill Us?

    Reading time varies, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is What Doesn't Kill Us a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Worth reading for those seeking to push their physical and mental boundaries.

    Who is the author of What Doesn't Kill Us?

    Scott Carney is the author of What Doesn't Kill Us.

    What to read after What Doesn't Kill Us?

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