According to a recent study, swimming in cold water could potentially help alleviate symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes, anxiety, and mood swings.
Menopause marks the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle, occurring when a person has not had a period for 12 consecutive months. The transitional phase typically occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 and can bring various symptoms that often affect sleep, mood, and overall well-being.
To investigate the effects of cold water swimming on women’s health and well-being, the researchers behind the study surveyed 1,114 women, 785 of whom were experiencing menopause. The researchers then found that swimming in cold water could provide several benefits for the physical and mental health of menopausal women. Their findings were published in Post Reproductive Health.
„The results showed that cold water swimming led to a significant improvement in anxiety (46.9% of women), mood swings (34.5%), low mood (31.1%), and hot flashes (30.3%) experienced by menopausal women. Furthermore, the majority of women (63.3%) swam specifically to alleviate their symptoms,“ a press release stated.
Some respondents described cold swimming as „an instant stress/anxiety relief“ and something that helped them with „healing.“ For some participants, cold water swimming not only helped with menopausal symptoms but also provided the opportunity to be outdoors, improve their mental health, and engage in physical activity.
„Cold water is phenomenal. It has saved my life. In the water, I can do anything. All symptoms (physical and mental) disappear, and I feel myself again,“ a 57-year-old woman said about her experience, according to the press release.
Previous studies have shown that cold water can improve mood and reduce stress in outdoor swimmers. It is known that ice baths support muscle repair and recovery in athletes.
„Our study supports these claims, while the anecdotal evidence also shows how women’s activity can be used to alleviate physical symptoms such as hot flashes and pain,“ said the study’s lead author, Professor Joyce Harper from UCL EGA Institute for Women’s Health, England.
„Most women swim to alleviate symptoms like anxiety, mood swings, and hot flashes. They felt that their symptoms were alleviated by the physical and mental effects of cold water, which were more pronounced the colder it was,“ she added.
However, further research is needed to understand the specific frequency, duration, temperature, and cold water exposure required to alleviate the symptoms.
„It was also important how often they swam, how long, and what they wore. Those who swam longer had more pronounced effects. The great thing about cold water swimming is that it allows you to be in nature and often exercise with friends, which can be empowering and create a great community,“ Harper continued.
The lead author cautioned that people should be cautious while experimenting with cold water swimming, as there is a risk of infections (depending on water quality), hypothermia, cold water shock, arrhythmias, and even drowning.
„However, we hope that our findings present an alternative solution for women experiencing menopausal symptoms and can encourage more women to engage in physical activity,“ Harper said.