JAN 28, 2024 6:52 PM PST

Cold-water Swimming Relieves Menopause and Menstruation Symptoms

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Cold-water swimming may relieve the physical and mental symptoms of menopause. The corresponding study was published in Post Reproductive Health

Menopause is defined as 12 months after the cessation of a woman's last menstrual period. Thereafter, a woman is considered postmenopausal. Perimenopause is the period before menstruation cessates, where levels of estrogen and progesterone fluctuate and may cause symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, and psychological symptoms. 

Research suggests that some of swimming's health benefits may be augmented by swimming in cold water. Other research shows that these benefits may encompass psychological symptoms: one study found that a 10-week introductory outdoor swimming course reduced negative mood and increased well-being and positive mood. 

Until now, however, little research has been conducted on how cold water swimming may affect menstrual and perimenopausal symptoms. To this end, the researchers behind the current study surveyed 1114 women who regularly swim in cold water online. 

Ultimately, they found that cold water swimming helped relieve both menstrual and perimenopausal symptoms. Altogether, between 37% and 47% of women with menstruation reported that cold water swimming improved symptoms of anxiety, mood swings, and irritability. Meanwhile, between 30% and 47% of perimenopausal women reported that cold water swimming improved symptoms of anxiety, mood swings, low mood, and hot flushes. Common benefits reported among the women included the ‘calming and mood-boosting effect of the water’, companionship and community, and overall health improvements. 

Professor Joyce Harper, Professor of Reproductive Health at University College London, said in a press release: “The majority of women swim to relieve symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings and hot flushes. They felt that their symptoms were helped by the physical and mental effects of the cold water, which was more pronounced when it was colder.”

“How often they swam, how long for and what they wore were also important. Those that swam for longer had more pronounced effects. The great thing about cold water swimming is it gets people exercising in nature, and often with friends, which can build a great community.”

The researchers noted that there are some limitations to their findings. For example, their survey may contain some bias as it was taken by women who already cold-water swim. They further noted that as the survey was conducted online, it is possible that women were more likely to complete it if they noticed a link between menopausal symptoms and cold-water swimming. 

Dr. Harper also noted that cold water swimming carries certain risks: “Caution must be taken when cold water swimming, as participants could put themselves at risk of hypothermia, cold water shock, cardiac rhythm disturbances or even drowning. Depending on where they are swimming, water quality standards may also vary. Raw sewage pollution is an increasingly common concern in UK rivers and seas. And, sadly, this can increase the likelihood of gastroenteritis and other infections."


Sources: Neuroscience NewsPost Reproductive Health




About the Author
Bachelor's (BA/BS/Other)
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets.
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