Benefits of Staying Hydrated
As biological beings, it makes perfect sense that one of the most important keys to our good health is staying well-hydrated — our very composition is about 60% water. The health benefits of staying hydrated and drinking water are numerous, but let’s narrow it to just a few:
- It gets the cardiovascular system pumping. Appropriate amounts of water can help maintain effective blood pressure and oxygen circulation.
- It helps the kidneys do their job. Staying hydrated ensures that the kidneys are able to easily dispose of waste in the bloodstream.
- It keeps the digestive tract on track. A healthy amount of water helps you digest your food and have regular bowel movements.
- It helps muscles and joints to stay lubricated and functional. In order to keep muscles and joints from getting too tight or strained, it is important that they have the fluid they need in order to move easily and naturally — kind of like oil in your car engine.
- It keeps your mood up. Very similar to the ever-popular term “hangry,” combining the words “hungry” and “angry,” being thirsty and dehydrated can make you feel ill, tired, and irritated.
How Much to Drink
The typical rule of eight 8-ounce glasses is easy to remember, but it is not always accurate. It is actually slightly less than the recommended amount. According to the Institute of Medicine, men and women should be drinking 3 liters and 2.2 liters a day, respectively. That means 13 cups for men or 9 cups for women. Alternately, Trent Nessler, PT, DPT, MTP, suggests on WebMD to stick to the general rule of drinking between half an ounce and an ounce of water per pound of body weight daily. This would mean someone weighing 150 pounds should aim to drink between 75 and 150 ounces in a day.
Of course, there are other factors that may require a person to consume more fluids for proper hydration. They may include:
- Exercise and activity level
- Environment or weather, such as heat, humidity, and high altitude
- Fever, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Health conditions
- Diuretics, like caffeine and alcohol
- Pregnancy or breast-feeding
In such cases, it is important to keep with the 3 and 2.2-liter rule and add more fluids as necessary. A good indicator that you are drinking enough in all of these cases is if your urine is clear.
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
Your body will often give you signs that you are not getting enough water. The most common sign is, of course, thirst, accompanied by a dry mouth and throat. Other moderate symptoms include less urine production (and it will likely be darker and more concentrated), headaches, constipation, dry skin, fatigue, and muscle stiffness and weakness. More serious and severe signs of dehydration are body cramps, irritability, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, shriveled skin, sunken eyes, fainting, and even death. Chronic dehydration can lead to problems such as high blood pressure, kidney stones, or kidney failure.
To ensure the best results and benefits of staying hydrated, remember to drink an appropriate amount of water — based on your lifestyle and state of health. Not only does it feel nice to down a cool glass of water after a strenuous workout or on a hot summer day, but it is also incredibly important for your short-term and long-term health.