At a glance
Why is water vital to being healthy?
We all know the benefits of proper hydration. Water is required by every cell in our bodies to carry out even the most basic physiological functions — such as regulating body temperature and blood pressure, proper food absorption and nutrient digestion, and skin health and appearance. And that just scratches the surface of what water does for your body.
But did you know that up to 60% of your entire body is made up of water? Both your brain and your heart are composed of 73% water, your lungs are 83% water, and your skin contains 64%. Your muscles and kidneys are 79% water, and even your bones contain 31%!
No wonder staying hydrated is so crucial to our health. From its importance to the life of every cell in your body, to its ability to act as a shock absorber for your joints, to keeping your brain “fluid,” water is a key substance in general health and wellbeing.
And that goes for every day of the year — not just the summer months where we sweat out much of our body’s internal stores of fluid.
Read on to discover even more reasons why hydrating is important, especially when it comes to preventing the adverse effects of dehydration, keeping your joints comfortable, increasing your energy levels, and more.
1. Water is Vital for Your Health
Your body needs to be properly hydrated to function at its very best. Essential functions such as circulation and muscle activity, for example, are just two of the many vital actions powered by hydration. When you’re dehydrated, your body moves out of homeostasis — and that lack of fluid balance can cause a quick downward spiral.
According to Texercise, a division of Texas Health and Human Services that focuses on health and fitness, potential dangers of not drinking enough water or becoming dehydrated include effecting the optimal functioning of your body, sapping your productivity, and even putting a damper on your mood.
- Optimal Function: Dehydration could result in essential body functions not performing smoothly. Even your organs won’t receive the necessary nutrients they need to operate effectively, resulting in less efficient physical performance.
- Productivity: Hydration is important for thinking clearly. Without enough water intake, your ability to hone-in on tasks requiring attention may be impaired.
- Brain Function and Mood: Multiple studies confirm the impact of hydration on our mood and emotions. And since water accounts for 75% of brain mass, it is easy to recognize the association between hydration and cognitive function. Not getting enough water may lead to a darker mood and increased mental fatigue.
But these three important areas of our health are only the tip of the iceberg.
The importance of properly hydrating is always prevalent but is magnified in scenarios where ambient temperatures rise as well as during physical activity. Its importance extends out to the health of your heart, and even plays a role in your digestive wellbeing.
- We all know that physical activity causes our body temperature and heart rate to rise. That is because when the total amount of water in your body is less than the normal level, your body is unable to properly regulate the heat. As a result, you may feel more fatigued than usual. Furthermore, your motor control, decision-making abilities, and concentration may be hindered.
- As Better Health Channel puts it, “The simple solution, is, of course, to drink enough fluids when you exercise. Make fluid replacement a priority when you’re physically active.” This will help you maintain concentration and performance, increase your endurance, and help eliminate excessive spikes in heart rate and body temperature.
- John Batson, M.D., a sports medicine physician and American Heart Association Volunteer, stated, “If you’re well hydrated, your heart doesn’t work as hard.”
- According to the American Heart Association, keeping your body hydrated is critical for cardiovascular health. Drinking enough water helps your heart more easily pump blood through your vessels to your muscles. It also helps your muscles work more efficiently.
- These claims go hand-in hand with research presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2021. The presentation is summarized as follows: Staying well-hydrated throughout life could reduce your risk of developing heart failure. Furthermore, “good hydration throughout life may decrease the risk of developing left ventricular hypertrophy and heart failure, said study author Dr. Natalia Dmitrieva of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
- In short, the study suggests that maintaining good hydration can slow down or even prevent the changes within your heart that lead to heart failure.
- Water plays an important role in your digestive tract because it transports nutrients and carries waste away from your body’s cells. The liquid is required to dissolve nutrients so they can be absorbed into your blood stream and delivered to your cells.
- Not getting enough water may slow the digestive process and could even lead to constipation.
- According to Great Lakes Gastroenterology, drinking an adequate amount of fluids can help regulate bowel movements, prevent constipation, and break down foods in combination with stomach acids and enzymes.
2. Water Prevents Dehydration
A staggering 75% of American adults are regulary dehydrated.
Like we mentioned above, dehydration can prevent your body from properly functioning, thereby making this statistic more concerning.
Now, that isn’t to say that all hope is lost, but it does mean the nation needs to drink more water, as not getting enough can cause fatigue, poor memory, dizziness, and other unwanted side effects.
According to Mayo Clinic, thirst isn’t always a reliable indicator of your body’s need for water. In fact, many people, especially older adults, don’t feel thirsty until they’ve already become dehydrated.
Symptoms of dehydration include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:
- Extreme thirst
- Less frequent urination
Dehydration can lead to health complications such as heat stroke, kidney problems, seizures, and low blood volume shock.
So, if you do think you need to start hydrating more, the good news is that drinking water can benefit your body almost immediately, as the effects of water intake on your heart rate occur within 15-20 minutes.
Drinking water benefits your body in the long-term as well: “Long-term hydration is the single best thing we can do to prevent chronic illness,” states Dr. Dana Cohen, an integrative medicine specialist. Cohen co-authored Quench: Beat Fatigue, Drop Weight, and Heal Your Body Through the New Science of Optimum Hydration.
And while everyone needs to drink water, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to hydration. For instance, you may have heard of something called the “eight-cup rule,” a self-explanatory goal that recommends you drink 8 glasses of water per day.
However, hydrating is perhaps more of an individual approach. For example, the new general rule of thumb is to drink half your weight in ounces, according to Dr. Cohen. This means if you weigh 120 pounds, you need to drink 60 ounces of water per day.
But remember, this is only a general recommendation. Be sure to consult your doctor for personalized daily water intake suggestions.
What You May Not Know
According to Sleep Foundation, hydration is even important when you sleep. Those who are dehydrated often feel extremely tired, lethargic, or fatigued, and may suffer from headaches, dry mouth and nasal passages, and muscle cramps. Furthermore, your body loses fluid through the skin and from respiration, which is known as insensible water loss. In fact, about 300 to 400 milliliters of water are lost from breathing. And though the exact amount varies by person, this process does occur during sleep.
The Sleep Foundation recommends sipping fluids regularly, making water your primary beverage, and eating a balanced diet with adequate fruits and vegetables as ways to remain hydrated during the day and throughout the night.
3. Water Is Good for Your Joints
An estimated 70-80% of your joint cartilage consists of water, so it is easy to see the why dehydration can cause joint discomfort because of the lubricating effect water it has on your joints.
When properly hydrated, the joint matrix’s synovial fluid (the thick lubrication located between your joints) provides nutrition, shock-absorption, lubrication, and cushioning in your joints. This helps limit friction in your cartilage and allows for smooth motion in your joints. When your body is dehydrated, there can be less lubrication in your joints, leading to discomfort.
Aside from supporting healthy synovial fluid production, proper water intake helps your blood volume increase, which keeps your joints lubricated and feed with nutrients.
It’s no wonder the Arthritis Foundation dubbed water a “magical elixir!”
4. Water Increases Your Energy
Did you know that even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you feel tired?
When fatigued, most people automatically turn to caffeine and glucose-heavy sports drinks for a quick jolt of energy. However, the Medical School at Harvard University notes that if your energy isn’t what you’d like it to be, the reason may be something as simple as drinking enough water.
That weak, lethargic feeling may be a result of your body being low on fluids, so consuming the right amount of liquid in beverages and water-filled food (fruits, vegetables, soup) will help your body get the energy it needs.
But keep in mind that water will probably not energize you unless you’re dehydrated. Rather, you should drink water to prevent symptoms of dehydration such as fatigue and tiredness.
And fear not, coffee and tea lovers — research suggests that drinking a moderate amount of caffeinated beverages as part of a normal lifestyle does not cause excess fluid loss or dehydration. But you should be sure to enjoy these drinks with a refreshing glass of water on the side!
5. Water Helps Balance Electrolytes
Electrolytes, the minerals in your body that hold an electric charge, are in your blood, urine, tissue, and other bodily fluids. According to MedlinePlus, a division of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, electrolytes are important for carrying out multiple vital functions:
- Balance the amount of water in your body
- Balance your body’s acid/base (pH) level
- Move nutrients into your cells
- Move waste out of your cells
- Make sure that your nerves, your muscles, your heart, and your brain work the way they should
You may have seen commercials for sports drinks boasting the number of electrolytes they pack inside. Aside from those, you’ll also find electrolytes in the food you eat, in the form of sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium.
However, the level of electrolytes in your body varies based on the amount of water you drink. The key is to maintain a balance between drinking too little water (dehydration) and too much water (overhydration).
Overall, staying hydrated should be a no brainer, but sadly, it is not. In fact, it’s when people forget to drink an adequate amount of water that they run into physical and mental problems that seemingly come out of the blue. So, whether your taking a walk on a sunny summer’s day or shoveling snow in January, remember to drink to your health!