Summer is fast approaching and we all want to be at our healthiest to make the most of the warm weather. Drinking enough fluids is important to prevent dehydration and keep your body functioning properly. But staying well hydrated is also essential in order to prevent injuries and treat sickness.
Reducing the Risk of Injuries
Staying well hydrated not only reduces your chances of developing heat-related illnesses, such as heat cramps and heat exhaustion, but it can also prevent injuries. Muscle tissue is made up of about 75 percent water. Since water plays a part in the proper functioning of muscles, joints and blood vessels, it makes sense that adequate fluid is needed to prevent injuries. When dehydration occurs, a loss of coordination and muscle fatigue can develop, both of which can lead to injuries. According to the American Council on Exercise, even small amounts of fluid loss can affect your athletic performance, and exercising while dehydrated can increase your risk of injuries.
Illness and Water
Drinking proper amounts of water may also play a role in decreasing various types of sickness and medical conditions. According to Michigan State University, drinking enough water aids with digestion, which helps keep the intestines healthy. Sufficient hydration also helps the body absorb nutrients, which is essential for overall nutrition and health. Staying properly hydrated helps the kidneys do their job of balancing electrolytes and filtering waste from the body. Additionally, drinking plenty of water may help some types of illness by lessening congestion and allowing mucus to be coughed out of the body.
In addition to keeping things running smoothly, maintaining proper hydration is also often important to treat sickness. For example, illnesses, such as gastrointestinal viruses, can lead to fluid loss and dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration can turn a mild illness into a life-threatening condition. Complications of severe dehydration include seizures, brain swelling and kidney failure.
How Much is Enough?
It’s clear staying well hydrated is important to maintain good health, but how do you know you are getting enough fluids? According to the Mayo Clinic, the amount of fluids you need to drink varies. Your fluid needs depend on several factors, such as how active you are, the climate you live in and your overall health.
Various medical organizations have stated guidelines for fluid intake, which vary slightly. According to the Institute of Medicine guidelines, men should drink about 13 cups of water a day and women about nine, which is close to the eight cups a day recommendation many people are familiar with.
There are some conditions and situations where you should increase your fluid intake, such as when you are exercising or spending time outside in warm weather. Fluid intake should often be increased when you are sick or if you are breastfeeding. Although there may be times when a sports drink can help you replenish lost electrolytes, drinking water is often your best bet to stay well hydrated.