Most women present various symptoms that precede or accompany menopause and among the most annoying are hot flashes, which can significantly interfere with their quality of life depending on their intensity and duration. According to the Spanish Association for the Study of Menopause (AEEM), hot flashes affect 70% or 80% of women at this stage of life and can begin before the last menstruation.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is used to administer estrogen to the patient and combat hot flashes, but there are also natural remedies, such as a balanced diet and physical exercise, that help relieve discomfort. Now, a new study led by researchers at London's Global University (UCL) found that menopausal women who regularly swim in cold water experience significant improvements in their physical and mental symptoms.
Swimming is one of the most complete sports. (Photo: Adobe Stock)
Researchers surveyed 1,114 women, 785 of whom were going through menopause, to analyze what effect cold water swimming had on their health and well-being. The findings have been published in Post Reproductive Health and showed that menopausal women experienced a significant improvement in anxiety, as reported by 46.9% of them, mood swings (34.5%), bad mood ( 31.1%) and hot flashes (30.3%) as a result of swimming in cold water.
Additionally, the majority of women (63.3%) swam specifically to relieve their symptoms. Some of the study participants stated that cold water was “an immediate relief from stress and anxiety” and described the activity as “healing.” A 57-year-old woman stated: “Cold water is phenomenal. It saved my life. In the water, I can do anything. All symptoms (physical and mental) disappear and I feel at my best.”
Swimming, an exercise that improves mood and reduces stress
Professor Joyce Harper from the UCL EGA Institute for Women's Health and lead author said: “Cold water has previously been found to improve mood and reduce stress in outdoor swimmers, and ice baths have been found to improve mood and reduce stress in outdoor swimmers. They have long been used to aid muscle repair and recovery in athletes. “Our study supports these claims, while anecdotal evidence also highlights how women can use activity to relieve physical symptoms, such as hot flashes, aches and pains.”
Most of the women included in the study probably swam in both summer and winter and wore bathing suits, rather than wetsuits. The main motivations that encouraged these women to practice cold water swimming, in addition to relieving menopause symptoms, were being outdoors, improving mental health and exercising.
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Harper explained that “most women swim to relieve symptoms such as anxiety, mood swings and hot flashes and found that their symptoms decreased thanks to the physical and mental effects of cold water.” “How often they swam, for how long, and what they wore were also important. Those who swam for longer had more pronounced effects. The best thing about cold water swimming is that it allows people to exercise in nature and often with friends, which can create a great community.”
Other research conclusions
The specialists also decided to investigate whether swimming in cold water improved menstruation symptoms. Of the 711 women who experienced menstrual symptoms, almost half said swimming in cold water improved their anxiety (46.7%) and more than a third said it helped with their mood swings (37.7%) and irritability ( 37.6%).
Despite the benefits of cold-water swimming, researchers warned that this sport carries certain risks. Professor Harper said: “Caution should be taken when swimming in cold water, as participants could be at risk of hypothermia, cold water shock or heart rhythm disturbances, which is why it is important to do so under the supervision of a professional.”
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“More research is still needed on the frequency, duration, temperature and exposure needed to cause a reduction in symptoms. However, we hope that our findings can provide an alternative solution for women struggling with menopause and encourage more women to participate in sports,” the expert concluded.