From the stuff we drink and swim in, to the steam that eases congestion and the ice that reduces swelling, water is all around us (and even in us). Heck, it kind of is us. “Water makes up about two thirds of who we are, and influences 100 percent of the processes in our body,” says CamelBak hydration expert Doug Casa, PhD. That probably explains why we feel better when we’re drinking enough of it. To learn exactly how water is helping us, as well as some creative ways to use it, check out these 34 reasons why you should go hydrate right now.
1. It could aid weight loss.
Anyone looking to lose weight could be helped by upping their water intake. Studies have found that when participants drink water before a meal, they lose weight faster than those who did not drink water Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Dennis, E.A., Dengo, A.L., Comber, D.L., et al. Obesity, 2010 Feb;18(2):300-7. Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity. Stookey, J.D., Constant, F., Popkin, B.M., et al. Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland, California. Obesity, 2008 Nov;16(11):2481-8. . Extra H2O helps us eat less by making us feel full, and it may also boost metabolism. CamelBak hydration advisor Kate Geagan, RD says it’s not uncommon to put on weight by mistaking thirst for hunger, and she offers this pro tip: Next time you feel fatigued or sluggish, “drinking water may be just what [you] need to perk up.”
2. It powers our warm-weather exercise.
With the proper precautions, working out in the heat is usually fine—and staying hydrated is one of the most important things you can do. The hotter the workout, the sweatier we tend to get, so it’s extra important to replace those lost fluids. Determining sweat rate informs good rehydration strategy: “Once an athlete [knows his or her] sweat rate, they can begin to practice replacing these fluid losses in training and be optimally prepared for [athletic exertion],” says Casa.
3. It keeps things moving, digestion-wise.
Water helps us, you know, go by helping dissolve fats and soluble fiber. Drinking enough water prevents constipation and also reduces the burden on the kidneys and liver by helping to flush waste products. Geagan breaks it down: “In the large intestine, water binds with fiber to increase the bulk of the stools, reduce transit time and make elimination easier. When you don't drink enough water and fluids, the colon pulls water from stools, increasing your risk of constipation.”
4. It helps endurance athletes fight fatigue.
Water is an integral part of most any workout, and it becomes especially important in order to prevent dehydration during long workouts. When exercising for an hour or more, drinking water treated with carbohydrates and salts (by mixing in tablets such as Nuun, or making a DIY version) can help maintain fluid balance, which aids athletic performance and helps prevent post-exercise fatigue and exhaustion Fluids and hydration in prolonged endurance performance. Von Duvillard SP, Braun WA, Markofski M, et al. Nutrition Journal, 2004 Jul-Aug;20(7-8):651-6. .
5. It might protect against some types of cancer.
Research has found that the greater the fluid intake, the lower the incidence of bladder cancer, with more significant results when the fluid is water Total Fluid and Water Consumption and the Joint Effect of Exposure to Disinfection By-Products on Risk of Bladder Cancer, Michaud D.S., Kogevinas M., Cantor K.P., et al. Environmental Health Perspectives, 2007 Nov;115(11):1569-72 . One possible reason could be that urinating more frequently prevents the buildup of bladder carcinogens. Staying hydrated may also reduce the risk of colon cancer and breast cancer Physical activity, water intake and risk of colorectal cancer in taiwan: A hospital-based case-control study. Tang R, Wang JY, Lo SK, et al. International Journal of Cancer, 1999, Aug 12;82(4):484-9. .
6. It can improve mood.
Drinking water makes us feel so refreshed that it actually improves our state of mind. You don’t even have to be severely in need of it to benefit: Even mild dehydration has been shown to negatively impact moods Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women. Armstrong LE, Ganio MS, Casa DJ, et al. Journal of Nutrition, 2012 Feb;142(2):382-8. .
7. Fun, frozen workouts are great for you.
When it’s too snowy or icy to go for a run, or you want a workout that’s as fun as it is good for you, find yourself some frozen water. Try ice skating for a low-impact workout that challenges your balance, get in some hill-work while sledding, get a full-body workout while cross-country skiing, or improve your cardiovascular endurance with snow-shoeing Changes in selected fitness parameters following six weeks of snowshoe training. Connolly DA, Henkin JA, Tyzbir RS. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 2002 Mar;42(1):14-8. .
8. Drinking it may help prevent headaches, naturally.
Going without water for too long causes headaches for some people, and has been identified as a migraine trigger Water-deprivation headache: a new headache with two variants. Blau JN, Kell CA, Sperling JM. Headache, 2004 Jan;44(1):79-83. Water deprivation: a new migraine precipitant. Blau, JN. 2005 Jun;45(6):757-9. . The good news is that in a study on the effects of water on headaches, participants experienced “total relief” from their headaches within 30 minutes of drinking water (two cups, on average) Water-deprivation headache: a new headache with two variants. Blau JN, Kell CA, Sperling JM. Headache, 2004 Jan;44(1):79-83. . Geagan says a good way to prevent headaches is to stay hydrated throughout the day. And if you’ve already been hit with a dehydration-triggered headache, you’ll need significantly more water to help it go away. She recommends drinking two to four cups of water for headache relief within one to two hours.
9. It keeps our kidneys working.
Kidneys remove waste from our bodies, help control our blood pressure, and balance fluids, so they’re crucial to keeping our systems running smoothly. One surefire way to keep them working properly? Adequate water consumption! So drink up to keep those kidneys in tip-top shape.
10. It energizes us.
Next time you’re feeling zonked, try drinking a couple glasses of water. Feeling tired is one of the first signs of dehydration and filling back up on H2O could zap the sleepiness Mild dehydration affects mood in healthy young women. Armstrong LE, Ganio MS, Casa DJ, et al. Journal of Nutrition, 2012 Feb;142(2):382-8. .
11. Soda water makes healthier cocktails.
Fizzy water is a staple for healthier versions of favorite boozy beverages. Using seltzer water and fresh fruit instead of sugary mixers makes for a delicious, better-for-you drink (that can also help prevent dehydration).
12. It may help keep us alert.
If you’re going to need to concentrate for long periods of time, keep water handy to help you stay refreshed, hydrated, and focused: Dehydration can impair your attention span, memory, and motor skills Cognitive performance and dehydration. Adan A. The Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2012 Apr;31(2):71-8. Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Kempton MJ, Ettinger U, Foster R et al. Human Brain Mapping, 2011 Jan;32(1):71-9 .
13. It protects our joints and cartilage.
Water keeps the cartilage around our joints hydrated and supple, ensuring that our joints stay lubricated. It also protects our spinal cord and tissues, keeping us healthy from the inside out. Geagan explains that cartilage—the rubbery material that coats our bones—is about 85 percent water. To keep this protective material healthy, we need to keep hydrated.
14. It powers our cold-weather workouts.
Most of us think of those sweaty, summer workouts as the ones we should be guzzling water before, during, and after. But staying hydrated while exercising in the cold is crucial, too: One of the ways our bodies lose water is through respiration, and when we exercise in the cold, we’re working harder under the extra layers of clothing and breathing more heavily as a result. But even though we’re doubling down on fluid loss, one study found that cold weather weakens thirst. The result? We’re working hard, losing water, and not getting any body cues to drink up, which can lead to dehydration Thirst sensations and AVP responses at rest and during exercise-cold exposure. Kenefick R.W., Hazzard M.P., Mahood N.V., et al. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2004 Sep;36(9):1528-34. .
15. Soaking in a warm bath or shower may make us feel less lonely.
Researchers have concluded that when people are lonely and seeking connectedness, they spend more time in warm baths and showers, substituting physical warmth for emotional warmth The substitutability of physical and social warmth in daily life. Bargh JA, Shalev I. Emotion, 2012 Feb;12(1):154-62. . Doing so seems to ease loneliness and feelings of isolation. Warm baths may also cue oxytocin, the hormone responsible for making us feel relaxed and bonded with others. Typically released when we’re experiencing closeness to others, researchers believe that rises in body temperature can cause it to be released, too (though we should mention that this study was done on rats, not humans) Oxytocin linked antistress effects--the relaxation and growth response. Uvnäs-Moberg K. Acta physiologica Scandinavica. Supplementum, 1997;640:38-42. .
16. It takes the edge off of hangovers.
Drinking alcohol causes dehydration, which can lead to hangovers. Having a glass of water with each alcoholic drink you sip is one way to offset the dehydration (and the day-after misery).
17. It helps us think more clearly.
Dehydration causes shrinkage of brain tissue. So when we haven’t been drinking enough water, our brains have to work a lot harder to perform at the same level Dehydration affects brain structure and function in healthy adolescents. Kempton MJ, Ettinger U, Foster R, et al. Human Brain Mapping, 2011 Jan;32(1):71-9. . One study even found that students who brought water to tests did better on their exams.
18. It cleans non-toxically.
Whether you need to clean your home, clothes, dishes, laundry, or yourself, water is the basic ingredient in many all-natural cleaning products. These products have all the cleansing punch with none of the toxicity, which is better for homes, health, and the environment.
19. Gargling keeps you healthier.
A study that followed 400 participants during cold and flu season found that those who gargled water regularly were significantly less likely to contact upper respiratory infections and that when they did, their symptoms weren’t as severe Prevention of upper respiratory tract infections by gargling: a randomized trial. Satomura K, Kitamura T, Kawamura T, et al. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2005 Nov;29(4):302-7. . (Maybe it’s time to supplement that flu shot with funny throat noises!).
20. Eating it hydrates us—deliciously.
Water-rich fruits and vegetables like cucumber, watermelon, and strawberries contain minerals, salts, and natural sugars the body needs for optimum hydration levels, so eating them can sometimes rehydrate us more effectively (and a lot more tastily) than water alone.
21. Working out in it (yes, in it) is good for aerobic fitness.
Deep water running and water aerobics offer cardio workouts without the impact. For cross training that’s no-impact and low-stress, hit the pool. Then there’s aqua spinning, which has been growing in popularity for a reason: It provides a workout as effective as cycling on land, and might even offer increased cardiovascular benefits.
22. Living near it is good for our health.
One study showed that good health is more prevalent the closer one lives to the coast Does living by the coast improve health and wellbeing? Wheeler BW, White M, Stahl-Timmins W, et al. Health & Place, 2012 Sep;18(5):1198-20. . Whether it’s the proximity to sea air, greenery, or opportunities to soak up sunshine on the beach, spending time near the water makes us healthier.
23. It balances our fluids.
About 60 percent of the human body is made of water, and keeping our fluids balanced means that all that water is doing its job—transporting nutrients, aiding digestion, regulating temperature, and so on.
24. Its sounds are soothing.
Exposure to unpleasant noises (screams, scrapes, electric drills, subway trains, perhaps?) can elevate our pulse and blood pressure and cause stress hormones to be released Health effects caused by noise: evidence in the literature from the past 25 years. Ising H, Kruppa B. Noise and Health, 2004 Jan-Mar;6(22):5-13. . In contrast, in one study, participants rated bubbling water as the most pleasing sound they were asked to listen to. The sounds of water flowing has also been found to have therapeutic effects.
25. Swimming around in it works out the body and mind.
Swimming has been found to improve long-term physical and mental health and is a great option for anyone who wants an impact-free cardio workout Eight months of physical training in warm water improves physical and mental health in women with fibromyalgia: a randomized controlled trial. Tomas-Carus P, Gusi N, Häkkinen A, et al. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, 2008 Apr;40(4):248-52. . Those seeking peace of mind might consider diving in too; spending time in the pool is believed to reduce depression.
26. When frozen, it provides pain and swelling relief for soft tissue injuries.
Ice has been shown to be an effective short-term therapy for sprains and strains. Cold packs reduce blood flow and swelling in the affected area and also treat pain Comparing the antiswelling and analgesic effects of three different ice pack therapy durations: a randomized controlled trial on cases with soft tissue injuries. Kuo CC, Lin CC, Lee WJ, et al. The Journal of Nursing Research, 2013 Sep;21(3):186-94. .
27. Spending time in cold water is good for athletes.
Studies show that immersion in cold water is beneficial for sustained athletic performance in the heat, and for treating muscle damage after exercise Effect of cold water immersion on repeated cycling performance and limb blood flow. Vaile J, O'Hagan C, Stefanovic B, et al. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2011 Aug;45(10):825-9. Influence of cold-water immersion on limb and cutaneous blood flow after exercise. Mawhinney C, Jones H, Joo CH, et al. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2013 Dec;45(12):2277-85 . On hot days, immersion in cold water can keep body temperatures level and blood flowing.
28. It’s been linked to heart health.
Can drinking water keep us heart healthy? There seems to be a link between risk of death from coronary heart disease and water intake: Research has shown both that consuming more water means a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease and that risk of death rises when intake of “high-energy fluids” (like soda and juice) increases Water, other fluids, and fatal coronary heart disease: the Adventist Health Study. Chan J, Knutsen SF, Blix GG, et al. American Journal of Epidemiology, 2002 May 1;155(9):827-33. .
29. A warm footbath before bed could help you sleep.
One small study found that adults with sleeping problems experienced better sleep and less wakefulness on nights they received a warm water foot bath before going to bed.
30. Waterbeds can help some people with back pain.
Perhaps there’s a therapeutic reason that waterbeds were all the rage in the '70s and ‘80s. Research indicates that waterbed mattresses are associated with improving back pain symptoms and providing a good night’s sleep (though the benefits were small) Better backs by better beds? Bergholdt K, Fabricius RN, Bendix T. The Spine Journal, 2008 Apr 1;33(7):703-8. .
31. It may help relieve congestion.
Stuffy nose got you down? Inhaling steam from a humidifier or pot of boiling water can help clear up congestion. Salt water can also break up all the gunk that makes us stuffy: Stream it from one nostril to the other with a neti pot or try a saline nose spray to loosen things up.
32. Shoveling after a heavy snowfall makes for great cardio.
Okay, so snow’s not exactly water, but it’s definitely similar enough! If you’ve ever spent time shoveling after a snowstorm and felt like you got a darn good workout, it’s because you did. In fact, shoveling snow makes demands on the body similar to a treadmill workout at maximum effort Cardiac demands of heavy snow shoveling. Franklin BA, Hogan P, Bonzheim K, et al. Journal of the American Medical Association, 1995 Mar 15;273(11):880-2. . As long as you’re already in good cardiovascular health, grab a snow shovel the next time heavy snowfall sidetracks your workout plans! (To avoid injury and strain: Warm up first and use proper shoveling technique—snow shoveling is hard work and can cause injury!).
33. Spa therapy could relieve pain and aid relaxation.
If you suffer from chronic pain, a hot-water soak could help. A review of spa therapy (soaking in baths of hot water or mineral water) showed that it has been an effective treatment for pain and rheumatic disorders Balneotherapy for rheumatoid arthritis. Verhagen AP, Bierma-Zeinstra SM, Cardoso JR, et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2003;(4):CD000518. .
34. Soaking up steam heat is good for the heart.
Relaxing in a sauna could be as healthy as it is calming. In one small study, participants who sat in a sauna for 15 minutes every day for three weeks showed improved heart function and blood pumping capabilities, and were able to exercise more Repeated sauna therapy improves myocardial perfusion in patients with chronically occluded coronary artery-related ischemia. Sobajima M, Nozawa T, Ihori H, et al. International Journal of Cardiology, 2013 Jul 15;167(1):237-43. . Researchers concluded that sauna therapy could be an effective complement or alternative treatment for some people with chronic heart failure.
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Thanks to CamelBak's hydration advisors, Doug Casa, PhD and Kate Geagan, RD, for their help with this article.