There's Something in the Water: A Lot of Benefits
Whether you’re a water glass half-full or half-empty kind of person, the medical community will almost always tell you to drink the rest of it.
Water is essential to nearly every major system in your body, and there’s an increasing amount of smart water bottles and apps designed to remind you to drink up during the day. After the holiday season rolls through, some of us may be giving up the guilty pleasures of soda, coffee and alcohol for even more water as part of New Year’s resolutions.
There is a lot of emphasis put on ensuring you drink enough fluids, but how much is “enough” when it comes to water intake, and what are the benefits that come with staying hydrated?
“Most of us are familiar with the commonly recommended advice to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but truth is there’s little science behind that rule,” says Anne L. Donnelly, M.D., Chair of Family and Community Medicine for the Crozer-Keystone Health System. “Exactly how much water you need depends a lot on the individual and factors such as how much exercise you’re getting, your overall health or if you live in a hot or humid environment.”
The eight-glass advice is still a fine goal to set each day for the average person, but some people will need to modify their fluid intake based on several factors.
“Your body is constantly losing water when you breathe, sweat or use the bathroom,” says Donnelly. “When you replenish the water in your body, your cells, tissues and organs are getting the water they need to function properly.”
The average person should remember to hydrate before, during and after their workout to cover the fluid loss from sweating. Athletes or people completing intense workouts that last more than one hour need to be especially conscious of this. Sometimes your environment can be enough to make you sweat, whether that’s hot temperatures, humidity or high altitudes that can cause dehydration.
People with high fevers who may be losing fluids through vomiting or diarrhea should hydrate more often than usual. Conditions like bladder infections and urinary tract stones can benefit from increased fluid intake. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers are advised to take in additional fluids to stay hydrated.
“Remember, water isn’t the only way to meet your fluid needs each day,” says Donnelly. “Other beverages like milk, juice and decaffeinated or herbal teas are composed mostly of water, and foods like watermelon and soups can contribute to your daily water intake.”
While there isn’t a universal one-glass-fits-all answer for how much water is enough, it is universally agreed upon that there are many benefits to getting enough of it. Drinking water helps your body with things like lubricating joints, forming saliva and mucus, regulating body temperature, delivering oxygen throughout the body, preventing kidney damage and even helping boost skin health, among others.
“Most people aren’t consciously thinking about getting enough water each day,” says Donnelly. “Carrying a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day is a good habit to start as a reminder to drink up.”