Edison physical therapists remind you how important it is to stay properly hydrated during exercise in all temperatures
March can be a strange month in New Jersey. Though winter occasionally tries to make a few final statements with snow and frigid temperatures, these days can often be interspersed with some spring-like temperatures that can dip into the 70s.
This March is no different, and the alternating temperatures might find you exercising both indoors and outdoors until the weather patterns eventually even out. One of the difficulties some people experience when exercising in warm weather followed by colder weather—or sometimes even the other way around—is being sure to stay hydrated. This is why our Edison physical therapists would like to remind you that proper hydration is essential during all forms of exercise, regardless of the temperature.
Water is vital to our health and ability to function. Every cell, tissue and organ relies on water, and it makes up about 60% of our body weight—though the concentration of water in other organs (e.g. the brain and lungs) is even higher. Water is essential for many of the body’s most important biological tasks, such as maintaining temperature, removing wastes and lubricating joints. Keeping the body hydrated also helps the heart more easily pump blood through blood vessels to the muscles, and in turn, helps the muscles work more efficiently.
On the flip side, not being hydrated can throw many parts of the body out of whack. When it comes to exercise, dehydrated muscles become deprived of electrolytes that are necessary for them to function. This can impair both muscle strength and control, and may also lead to cramps, all of which can be dangerous and have a negative effect on your performance.
When you exercise in warmer weather, it’s usually easier to be aware of hydration because you sweat more and get thirsty quicker. Lots of sweat—the body’s natural cooling mechanism—means you are losing more water, and this water needs to get replenished to prevent dehydration. But proper hydration is just as important in the cold.
In cold weather, the body doesn’t get as hot, sweat evaporates more rapidly and the body’s thirst response is diminished by up to 40%, even when we’re dehydrated. As a result, you may be fooled into thinking that you’re properly hydrated, even when your body requires more water to function properly.
The most important way to prevent dehydration when exercising is by not waiting until you’re thirsty or notice symptoms—such as little or no urine, dry mouth, confusion, nausea, headaches, fatigue—to start drinking water. You should stay well hydrated before, during and after your workout, regardless of the temperature, and here are some tips to help along the way:
- The exact amount you need to drink depends on your body weight, body temperature, type of exercise and weather conditions, but as a general guideline, drink several glasses of water spaced throughout the day; you are usually well-hydrated if your urine is very light yellow or clear
- Water is the best option, but if you’re exercising at a high intensity for longer than one hour, a sports drink with electrolytes may also be necessary
- Drink cool rather than very cold water, which your body will absorb better
- Avoid drinks with caffeine, as it’s a diuretic and will make you lose more fluids
- Get in the habit of drinking lots of water throughout the day
Dehydration can impair your performance and lead to additional complications if it’s severe, but just being aware and hydrating properly can easily prevent it. We encourage you to get and stay active as we make our way through March, but we urge you to be smart about hydration while doing so. For any additional guidance on starting an exercise program or adjusting your workout, our Edison physical therapists can help. Contact Arrow Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation in Somerville, Woodbridge, Union and Edison at 732-494-0895 for more information or to schedule an appointment.