Menopause Symptoms Reduced by Cold Water Swimming

Summary: Cold water swimming significantly eases menopausal symptoms. Surveying 1114 women, with 785 experiencing menopause, researchers found improvements in anxiety, mood swings, low mood, and hot flashes among participants.

The study suggests that cold water swimming not only helps with physical symptoms but also boosts mental health, with 63.3% of women swimming specifically for symptom relief.

These findings highlight cold water swimming as a potential alternative therapy for menopausal women, although caution is advised due to associated risks like hypothermia and water quality concerns.

Key Facts:

  1. Significant improvements in menopause-related anxiety, mood swings, and other symptoms were reported by women engaging in cold water swimming.
  2. The majority of the women swam to relieve menopausal symptoms, experiencing both physical and mental health benefits.
  3. Risks associated with cold water swimming include hypothermia and water quality issues, underscoring the need for caution.

Source: UCL

Menopausal women who regularly swim in cold water report significant improvements to their physical and mental symptoms, finds a new study led by UCL researchers.

The research, published in Post Reproductive Health, surveyed 1114 women, 785 of which were going through the menopause, to examine the effects of cold water swimming on their health and wellbeing.

The findings showed that menopausal women experienced a significant improvement in anxiety (as reported by 46.9% of the women), mood swings (34.5%), low mood (31.1%) and hot flushes (30.3%) as a result of cold water swimming.

This shows a woman swimming.
Of the 711 women who experienced menstrual symptoms, nearly half said that cold water swimming improved their anxiety (46.7%), and over a third said that it helped their mood swings (37.7%) and irritability (37.6%). Credit: Neuroscience News

In addition, a majority of women (63.3%) swam specifically to relieve their symptoms.

Some of the women quoted in the study said that they found the cold water to be “an immediate stress/ anxiety reliever” and described the activity as “healing”.

One 57-year-old woman stated: “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 like me at my best.”

Senior author, Professor Joyce Harper (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, meanwhile 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.”

Most of the women involved in the study were likely to swim in both summer and winter and wear swimming costumes, rather than wet suits.

Alongside aiding menopausal symptoms, the women said their main motivations for cold water swimming were being outside, improving mental health and exercising.

Professor Harper said: “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 also wanted to investigate whether cold water swimming improved women’s menstrual symptoms.

Of the 711 women who experienced menstrual symptoms, nearly half said that cold water swimming improved their anxiety (46.7%), and over a third said that it helped their mood swings (37.7%) and irritability (37.6%).

Yet despite the benefits of cold water swimming, the researchers were also keen to highlight that the sport comes with certain risks.

Professor Harper explained: “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.”

Study limitations

The study may contain some bias due to the survey only being taken by women who already cold water swim. And, as the survey was conducted online, it is likely that women were more likely to complete the survey if they noticed an association between menopause symptoms and cold water swimming.

About this menopause and mental health research news

Author: Poppy Danby
Source: UCL
Contact: Poppy Danby – UCL
Image: The image is credited to Neuroscience News

Original Research: Open access.
How do women feel cold water swimming affects their menstrual and perimenopausal symptoms?” by Joyce Harper et al. Post Reproductive Health


How do women feel cold water swimming affects their menstrual and perimenopausal symptoms?


This study aimed to determine how women felt cold water swimming affected their menstrual and perimenopausal symptoms.

Study design

An online survey that asked women who regularly swim in cold water about their experiences. The survey was advertised for 2 months on social media. Questions related to cold water swimming habits and menstrual and perimenopausal symptoms were analysed.

Main outcome measures

Quantitative and qualitative data including; frequency of menstrual and menopause symptoms, the effect of cold water swimming on these symptoms.


1114 women completed the survey. Women reported that cold water swimming reduced their menstrual symptoms, notably psychological symptoms such as anxiety (46.7%), mood swings (37.7%) and irritability (37.6%). Perimenopausal women reported a significant improvement in anxiety (46.9%), mood swings (34.5%), low mood (31.1%) and hot flushes (30.3%). The majority of women with symptoms swam specifically to reduce these symptoms (56.4% for period and 63.3% for perimenopause symptoms). Women said they felt it was the physical and mental effects of the cold water that helped their symptoms. For the free text question, five themes were identified: the calming and mood-boosting effect of the water, companionship and community, period improvements, an improvement in hot flushes and an overall health improvement.


Women felt that cold water swimming had a positive overall effect on menstrual and perimenopause symptoms. Studies on other forms of exercise to relieve menstrual and perimenopause symptoms may show similar findings.

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