Cold water swimming and other activities to improve menopause

Woman enjoying cold water swimming

Cold water swimming has surged in popularity recently, with a growing body of science backing up its health benefits. Now research suggests it could help alleviate menopause symptoms, too.

A team at University College London (UCL) surveyed 1114 women who regularly swam in cold water, including 785 who were menopausal.

Some 46.9 per cent said cold water swimming helped their anxiety, 34.5 per cent said their mood swings had improved, while a fifth noted reduced night sweats. As for hot flushes, 31.1 per cent said this symptom had improved. Those who swam more regularly or for longer intervals reported greater benefits, the research found.

Two women going for a swim in the sea in Brighton
Cold water swimming has become increasingly popular. (Alamy/PA)

Commenting on the findings, published in Post Reproductive Health, senior author Professor Joyce Harper, of the UCL EGA Institute for Women’s Health, said: “Cold water has previously been found to improve mood and reduce stress in outdoor swimmers, and ice baths have long been used to aid athletes’ muscle repair and recovery.

“Our study supports these claims, while the anecdotal evidence also highlights how the activity can be used by women to alleviate physical symptoms, such as hot flushes, aches and pains.

“More research still needs to be done into the frequency, duration, temperature and exposure needed to elicit a reduction in symptoms. However, we hope our findings may provide an alternative solution for women struggling with the menopause and encourage more women to take part in sports.”

Here are some other activities with research-backed benefits for easing menopause symptoms.

Running (or any cardio!)

Entering midlife and beyond doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye to high-impact exercise. In fact, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists cites aerobic exercise – such as jogging and running – as an evidence-based lifestyle measure to help manage menopause.

It’s never too late to start, either. A 2012 study which looked at how aerobic training affects symptoms in recently postmenopausal women who’d previously had sedentary lifestyles, found after six months, symptoms such as night sweats, mood swings and irritability had improved.

Mature white woman out for a run
Aerobic training has been found to lessen menopause symptoms. (Alamy/PA)

High-impact activity has also been linked with supporting bone density in post-menopausal women – which is especially important as the drop in oestrogen that happens with menopause can cause weakened bones and osteoporosis.

Yoga 

With reduced anxiety and inflammation among its many science-backed benefits, it’s perhaps no wonder research also suggests yoga could help with menopause. One such study, published in 2022 in Nursing & Health Sciences, found yoga was particularly associated with improved sleep among peri- and post-menopausal women.

Strength training

Resistance or strength-training exercise is especially important for women in their 40s, 50s and beyond – firstly because being strong helps manage the effects of oestrogen loss and that previously mentioned higher risk of osteoporosis. It also supports metabolic function, which is good news for health overall.

Black middle aged woman doing kettlebell workout
Resistance training can combat osteoporosis. (Alamy/PA)

One study published last year found menopausal women who took up resistance training (this could be lifting weights or dumbbells, using the strength-building gym machines or even just your own bodyweight with a mat-based workout), had better muscle mass than those who only did cardio.

While not a menopause symptom as such, women’s risk of cardiovascular disease can increase post-menopause – and regular exercise has been found to help with this too. One data review published last year found all forms of regular exercise – including aerobic and resistance training – were associated with better cardiorespiratory fitness after menopause.

Have you ever tried cold water swimming for any reason? Did it help? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

Also read: Is it time to take male menopause seriously?

– With PA

Written by Abi Jackson

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