Cold Water Swimming During Menopause: 4 Benefits and 4 Risks

Last updated 04.29.2024 | by Sabrina Johnson | 7 Minutes Read

This article has been reviewed and fact checked by Dr. Karen Pike, a senior physician administrator and board-certified emergency room doctor actively working in northern California. Read more at our medical disclaimer page.


If I were to recapitulate my menopausal journey, I would say that swimming was a blessing to my life. The regular bouts of hot flashes, sleep problems, and moodiness made my life miserable. It was then that my healthcare provider asked me to join a swimming session. She said I would feel better. And, yes, I did”. This is what Sarah (name changed) had to say during an online discussion on World Menopause Day.

This isn’t just her opinion. Many women seem on the same page as her. In an online survey, women were asked about their swimming experiences in cold water. You’ll be surprised by the results. Most of them mentioned that swimming in cold water helped improve their symptoms of menopause.

Are you in your 40s? Do you wish to know the benefits of swimming in managing menopause symptoms? That’s what we will discuss here. I will elaborate on the pros of cold water swimming in menopause. I will even explain the risks of swimming during menopause (if any). So let’s get started.

How Does Cold Water Swimming Help in Menopause?

Several findings have deduced the positive impact of swimming in cold water on menopausal women. A study was conducted on 1114 women. Of them, around 785 were experiencing menopause.

The results deduced that 47% of the women experienced an improvement in their anxiety symptoms. About 34% said that their mood swings improved, while 31% mentioned an upliftment. What’s more interesting is that 30% of the cold-water swimmers noted that the severity and intensity of hot flashes lessened immensely. Let us provide a detailed explanation of how helpful cold-water swimming is for coping with several menopausal symptoms.

1. Lessens Anxiety and Stress

More than 50% of women experience stressful times in perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. You can blame the declining estrogen levels for the same, which results in several symptoms your body goes through.

The role of swimming in calming our nerves and relaxing our minds isn’t unknown. As you get into cold water, your body may experience a shock phase. It could seem uncomfortable at the onset. However, over time, it may result in a comforting feeling.

Swimming in cold water also makes your body release a more significant amount of feel-good hormones, dopamine, and serotonin. That’s why a stint in cold water will make you feel rejuvenated and refreshed for a long, even after you have completed your swimming. My sister, during her menopausal years, would often say how fresh and happy she would feel after every swimming session.

2. Reduces Hot Flashes

Menopause and hot flashes go hand in hand. Most consider hot flashes as the primary and only symptom of menopause, experienced by around 85% of women. Of the several remedies to help women cope with hot flashes, cold water swimming is considered one of them.

Swimming in cold water can significantly lessen the intensity of hot flashes. It helps divert your body’s focus from them, making them less intense and severe.

Studies have shown that cortisol levels spike when you have hot flashes. When you swim in cold water, however, the cortisol levels are under control to a greater extent. Cold water swimming significantly reduces your body temperature, which significantly helps with hot flashes.

3. Boosts Immunity

Cold-water swimming has other benefits for menopausal women besides helping with hot flashes and keeping anxiety and mood swings under control. Low estrogen levels significantly compromise immunity, and swimming in cold water effectively boosts the immune system and lessens inflammation.

However, some studies have shown that short-term cold-water exposure improves immune system activity. Conversely, repeated exposure to cold water without giving your body sufficient recovery time may reduce immune function. So, you must understand your body’s capacity and avoid overdoing things.

4. Increases Your Body’s Metabolic Activity

Low estrogen and progesterone levels in menopause and the general ageing process cause metabolic changes and reduced burned calories. The outcome is abdominal weight gain, observed in about half of the menopausal women. You must be wondering how cold water swimming helps with body fat.

Studies show that cold-water swimming increases brown fat, which helps burn calories. So, women who regularly swim in cold water may expect a reduced overall weight. However, if you are doing cold-water swimming to burn fat, ensure that you consult your doctor about the same.

Swimming in cold water effectively manages mood swings, which worsen in menopause. It even helps lessen aches and pains in those troubled by them by reducing inflammation. The best part is that swimming in cold water will boost your mood.

What are the Risks Associated with Cold Water Swimming?

When choosing cold-water swimming, it is essential to be aware of its risks. Here are the banes associated with cold-water swimming, especially when you do not exercise proper caution.

  1. Prolonged exposure to cold water could put you at risk of hypothermia, where your body’s core temperature drops drastically.
  2. It could even trigger cold water shock and spike blood pressure and heart rate. For people vulnerable to cardiac ailments, cold water shock may make them susceptible to stroke and heart attack. Cold shock could even trigger feelings of stress and panic, hampering your thinking and decision-making skills.
  3. Cardiovascular arrhythmia may increase when one remains submerged in cold water for a long time.
  4. Prolonged exposure to cold water could make you susceptible to bacterial and other infections.

Tips to Swim Safely In Cold Water

When you have decided to explore the cold waters for better health, here are some tips to lessen risks.

  • When planning for cold water swimming, research the water temperature current, waves, and other aspects. Avoid swimming in contaminated water bodies infested with algae, foam, scum, etc.
  • Before you take a cold water plunge, it is better to get accustomed to it by practicing it in the shower. Ensure the water temperature is less than 60 °C. Start with less time and increase it eventually. Shuffle between hot and cold water. You can alternate between a 3-minute cold water shower and a one-minute hot water shower.
  • Getting a companion along is always safe and advisable, even if you are adept at swimming.
  • If you have health problems, always check with your doctor and seek swimming advice, lest it prove hazardous.
  • It is advisable to get into the water slowly rather than hurrying to minimize the risks of cold water shock. Also, make it a point to do warm-ups to prepare your body for cold water swimming.
  • If you’ve never tried cold water swimming, you are advised to stay in the water for a minute or two. You must get out of the cold water when you still have that fee-good vibe, your fingers and hands are in proper motion, and you haven’t frozen.
  • Once you are done swimming, dry off immediately and dress in warm clothing. You may even have a warm drink to rewarm yourself. After each session, it will help if you do stretches. They reduce the possibility of muscle aches and cramps.

FAQs

Who should avoid cold water swimming?

Women with high blood pressure, heart ailments, or asthma must seek a doctor’s consultation before getting into cold waters is advisable.

Does cold water swimming affect the heart?

Cold water swimming may result in a spike in heart rate and be harmful for those with any underlying heart issues.

Conclusion 

If you are in perfect health, cold water swimming will be beneficial in many ways. However, make sure that you do not over do, or push yourself to do more than your body permits. Also, in the case of any physical issues after swimming, make it a point to consult the doctor. Besides cold water swimming, other ways to keep yourself fit in menopause is to follow a proper exercise schedule and also to take care of your diet.

Author

  • Sabrina Johnson

    Meet Sabrina Johnson, a compassionate author and a seasoned expert in Obstetrics and Gynecology. She is a driving force behind Simply Menopause, where her extensive medical knowledge and empathetic nature come together to empower women in their menopausal journey. Sabrina offers culturally sensitive guidance and support through her approachable writing, making her a trusted friend on the path to menopause wellness.