From a small age, I have always loved being around water. I learned to swim by literally jumping in the pool at age 5 or 6 and just taking off much to my mom’s dismay. Water has such a calming effect on me that I recently moved to be able to access the Trinity River Trails at a moments notice. Now, there is research being done regarding the therapeutic value of “blue space”.
In looking at the health benefits of water, scientists have been able to combine the calming effect of the green-scape which shows stress levels are lowered according to how much greenery present with the calming effect of water. Using images combining the two, starting with a pond progressing in size to a coastline increasing amounts of water in each image, people showed a strong preference for more and more water in the images in self-reported feelings of calm. So, research is indicating that being around “blue space” has emotional and mental benefits but at the same time dietitians know that water offers physical health benefits as well.
As we head into the summer months, paying attention to water can play an important role in balancing health as per the World Health Organization (WHO) definition. The WHO defines health as the complete state of mental, physical and social wellbeing. In the summer, we tend to socialize more outdoors and around water. These provide great outlets for our mental and social needs. However, many of us forget that as the temperature rises and we perspire more especially with exercise, we need to mind our water intake.
Water is often the forgotten nutrient. The human body consists of approximately 50-75% water and since we cannot store water, we need adequate amounts daily. Water is needed for many basic body functions as well as being a part of lean muscle mass, bones and fat stores. Each person will require different amounts of water based on body size, climate, weather, physical activity, foods eaten and individual metabolism.
Children require anywhere from 4-5 cups per day and adults 6-10 cups based on age and gender. Like all other nutrient needs, a Registered Dietitian can help determine the amount of water optimal for individual needs and lifestyles. Consuming too much or too little water can both have adverse effects especially for active people and athletes of any age. Research shows just a 1-2% level of dehydration can impact athletic performance and overall wellness.
Sources of water can include milk, plain water, coffee, tea, soup, juice and other beverages even soft drinks. However, sugar sweetened beverages should be limited due to the additional calories with generally limited nutrient content they provide. Foods with high water content can also contribute to total fluid intake such as watermelon, pineapple, celery and other fruits and vegetables. Alcohol as a beverage should be limited to recommended levels. Since alcohol can have a diuretic (dehydrating) effect, a good habit is to drink a glass of water for every serving of alcohol consumed when consuming alcohol. This helps to abate not only dehydration but also adverse effects of alcohol or hangovers, the next day.
As I write this post, the day outside is beautiful. Having survived another stressful semester of my doctoral program, I covet every moment of “blue space” to rejuvenate my spirit and refresh my mind before we start back to studies. So, I will end now and head out for a walk on the river…with a bottle of water in hand!