Journal / Inspiration

Cold Water Therapy and Menopause

1 Mar, 2024

Whether it’s the lido, the local swimming baths in winter or the sea, many of us find ourselves drawn to the cold in midlife. Somewhat romantically, I like to believe it’s the pull of nature; a number of mammals that we now know experience menopause, live their lives in the cold water too.

1 Mar, 2024

But as researchers start to take note of the health potential of traditional cold water practices as well as the work of advocates like the Iceman himself, Wim Hof, there has been a global explosion of demand for training classes, swim groups, inflatable ice plunge buckets and petitions to keep local lidos open year-round.

So what is the science? And why is cold water particularly interesting in menopause?

Last week’s Meno.Well Masterclass dived (excuse the pun!) into the detail along with the principles of how to introduce cold water into your everyday safely.

Cold water therapy in action:

The reason that cold water therapy is valuable to our modern-day midlife bodies is multi-faceted:

  1. It acts as homeostasis training for bodies that have become too comfortable: cold exposure reminds our bodies how to get themselves into balance. Too often, life today is stripped of discomfort. We move from heated homes to heated cars (with heated seats!). In the summer we move between air-conditioned spaces. Our own internal systems become sluggish as a result. Cold water shocks our bodies into regulating its temperature naturally.

  2. It triggers a positive stress response that impacts mood anxiety and brain fog. Heather described the internal dialogue that takes place when you are exposed to extreme cold:

    ‘You jump in and your body says, “Heather this is a really bad idea. You’re going to die.” Everything starts to hurt. Your body screams for you to remove yourself. But then, after a period of time, it gives up! And, because it loves you, it decides that if it can’t get you out, it’s going to make you feel really good as you go! It floods your body with endorphins, dopamine..those feel good chemicals! It makes you feel incredible. And it’s why so many of us describe the output as a natural high and why researchers believe it can be so valuable for our mood’.

  3. It’s a natural workout for your circulatory system: our circulatory system is our body’s internal transport system. And cold water makes it work optimally by triggering vasoconstriction when we experience cold and, as we warm up, vasodilation. This is particularly valuable for us in midlife when cardiovascular health needs our attention.

  4. It helps us with positive stress adaptation: Abit like mindfulness or meditation, by regularly exposing ourselves to the controlled, planned external stress of the cold, and by keeping a calm mind, we are better able to apply the same calm mind when unexpected external stressors present themselves.

In addition, research shows it can help with inflammation, blood sugar, sleep, and our immune response too.

Getting started.

So, how do we explore whether cold water therapy may be a helpful addition to our midlife toolkit?

  1. The most important thing to remember is it’s not a competitive sport. With cold, or any stress we apply to our bodies, more isn’t better. In fact, more is dangerous.

  2. Build up slowly and remember, 2 minutes is considered the optimal time for most of us.

  3. Warm up before and after cold water exposure, naturally. Wim Hof uses the horse stance for a reason. It trains your breath, it fires the biggest muscles in your body, it opens our femoral artery to aid blood flow and it warms you from within. Following his method means warming up for the same period of time you plan to be in the cold. And to repeat this ritual when you emerge from the cold too. This final point is really important. We need to heat up gently to protect our hearts.

Finally, we strongly recommend that any cold water therapy exploration is undertaken, first, with a qualified practitioner.

    Heather runs online 1:1 courses as well as regular Wim Hof workshops in person across the globe. For her latest dates CLICK HERE.

    Share Twitter Facebook Pinterest