Water: The Elixir of Life
Dehydration is a normal process of life that arises when biological beings do not replenish their water sources. Dehydration can compromise athletic performance as well as normal activities of daily living. It can also increase the risk of exertional heat illness. Semantics will tell us dehydration is the “act or process of becoming hypo-hydrated” (dictionary.com). The key concept of hydration is our body must maintain a stable, homeostatic environment and cannot do so without the regular intake of water.
As an anatomy teacher at the high school level, one of the first presentations I give covers basic human needs. The most important concept we discuss is water and replenishment. Rather than just teaching the concepts, I make it a rule in the classroom that students will not bring any beverages to class other than water. Furthermore, I encourage my students on a regular basis to bring a water bottle to school and refill it several times throughout the day. It is recommended we drink eight, 8-ounce glasses per day. Most of the high school students and athletes I have been around do not even reach half that number.
It amazes me that a basic human need can elude so many young individuals. As Athletic Trainers, we ensure our athletes are well hydrated and know how much water to drink and when. However, I believe we tend to overlook the non-athletes.
Working with 190 students at the public school level, I administered a survey that revealed only 70 of the 190 (36%) students carried a water bottle with them to school. Of the other 120 students who did not carry a bottle with them, only 50 students stated they drank water regularly (more than twice) throughout the course of the school day. The results of the survey showed nearly 36% of my students did not have a daily water-replenishment routine.
My tentative plan for intervention:
Every student will be required to bring a water bottle to my class. Some of them will forget, but if I keep reminding them, eventually, persistence will beat resistance. This is my attempt to help students overcome the long term negative symptoms of chronic dehydration.
Drinking water regularly can lead to better immune function, better cognitive and mental capacity, better memory, more energy and better digestion. Globally, water is essential to survival because every cell in our body is made up of about 70-75% water.
Preventing the negative effects of dehydration is about education and creating a constant awareness. We must continue to take our knowledge and help as many people as we can beyond our athletic teams, clinics, high schools and gyms.
NATA Position Statement: Fluid Replacement for Athletes