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Can Cold Water Swimming Provide Menopause Symptom Relief?

Brittany Dick

Can routine exposure to cold water offer relief from menopause symptoms? Dr. Alyssa Dweck, MS, MD, FACOG, and Chief Medical Officer at Bonafide, weighs in.

When you think of a person submerging themselves in an ice bath, images of athletes or someone with a high fever may come to mind.

But did you know cold water swimming— also known as “cold water plunging”— may offer benefits for those who aren’t marathon runners or recovering from the flu? In fact, ongoing research suggests menopausal women who regularly swim in cold water may experience significant improvements in mental and physical wellness.1

“While the mechanism for relief isn’t yet fully understood, some observational studies report2 menopausal women experience a decrease in physical symptoms as well as positive mental health benefits from intentional cold water exposure,” says Dr. Dweck.

Here we take a deeper look at the science behind cold water swimming, which menopause symptoms it can potentially help manage, and whether or not it may be right for you.

What is Cold Water Swimming?

Used interchangeably with “cold water plunging,” cold water swimming refers to partially or entirely submerging the body in cold water for a few minutes at a time. While cold plunge tanks are available for purchase, a cold lake or ice bath offers a similarly “shocking” experience at a lower cost.3

Fitness gurus have long touted the benefits of cold water plunging for muscle recovery and inflammation reduction,4 but current research shows plunging into cold water may be therapeutic for those experiencing menopause symptoms, as well.5 ­­­

How Can Cold Water Swimming Help During Menopause?

When it comes to embarking on cold water swims during menopause, it’s possible that there may be both physical and mental benefits.

Hot Flashes 

More than 75% of women report sudden, uncomfortable increases in body temperature, notoriously known as hot flashes, during menopause.6 Fortunately, observational studies have demonstrated that cold water swimming may provide some relief7—but how, exactly?

“The immediate exposure to cold water causes blood vessels to constrict as a way for the body to conserve heat,” explains Dr. Dweck. “During a hot flash, blood vessels on the skin surface dilate to dissipate heat and allow for perspiration and cooling. The sudden vasoconstriction experienced during cold exposure, may mitigate hot flashes and promote cooling in this way.”

Stress Relief, Mood Swings, and Irritability

In addition to offering physical relief via the body’s vascular system, cold water swimming may also help to lessen menopausal hot flashes by aiding in stress management.

“We know stress can contribute to, or even trigger hot flashes,8 and water tends to have a calming effect,”9 says Dr. Dweck. “Similarly, companionship and community afforded by cold plunge events can potentially minimize stress due to the social aspect. Being outside may optimize mood and act as a stress reliever, as well.”

Growing bodies of research echo Dr. Dweck’s statements. Teams of researchers in Europe recently published encouraging results after studying the psychological effects of winter sea bathing,10 in addition to a 2020 study conducted in Britain that found that study participants who enrolled in a 10-week cold water swimming course reported improvements in both their mood and overall wellbeing.11

A Note on Staying Safe During Cold Water Swimming

As with any physical activity— especially one involving extreme temperatures—there are safety measures to keep in mind before giving cold water swimming a try.

“Cold water swimming can pose certain health risks including hypothermia, frostbite, incapacitation, drowning, cardiac arrhythmia, and shock,” cautions Dr. Dweck. “These events are rare, but that’s why it’s essential for anyone, especially those with preexisting medical conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, to consult with a healthcare provider before taking a cold plunge.”

Dr. Dweck emphasizes that those with heart arrhythmias, heart disease, uncontrolled diabetes, pregnancy, and other medical considerations should think through the risks carefully and be cleared by a physician before attempting a cold water plunge.

Cold Water Swimming Safety Tips to Keep in Mind

Looking to get started? Dr. Dweck recommends considering a few safety tips before incorporating cold water swimming into your wellness routine.

  1. Practice basic swim safety. Those who cannot swim should take obvious precautions, like swimming with a group or opting instead for an ice bath or cold shower, if possible.
  2. Ensure natural bodies of water are swim safe. Do your best to avoid bodies of water with strong currents or those covered in ice.
  3. Measure the temperature before attempting a cold plunge. While some studies reference temperatures of 50 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit (10 to 15 degrees Celsius) as the optimal range for cold plunging,12 experts recommend beginners starting at higher temperatures and shorter time intervals to enable them to build up cold tolerance.13

Cold Water Swimming May Offer Relief for Menopause Symptoms

If you’re experiencing hot flashes, mood swings, and higher stress levels as a result of menopause, consider talking with your healthcare provider about trying cold water plunging to help manage your symptoms. Before giving it a go, ensure you’re in a safe environment and start slow, doing your best to work your way up to lengthier cold exposure times at lower temperatures.



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* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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