We all know that water is good for us but did you also know that we need regular movement in conjunction with correct hydration in order to get the water to where it’s needed? Part of our aim at Melbourne Combined Natural Therapies is to show you ways in which you can help yourselves achieve greater physical wellbeing. Our therapists regularly tell clients about the importance of hydration and movement and this article will explain why.
Let’s start off by remembering just how vital water is to the human body. 2nd only to oxygen, we cannot live without water for more than a few days. Water is necessary for all of the systems of the body to function and as a result dehydration will cause a loss of function in all systems of the body.
So let’s go through a couple of the systems to see why both hydration and movement are necessary.
The Digestive System and Metabolism
Our digestive system breaks down the food we eat into various components that we need; proteins; sugars; fats and so on; so that we can use it for energy, repair and growth. We call this process metabolism – a series of metabolic chemical reactions that turn food into a useable fuel, split into its various nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Water is a crucial medium nessesary for all of these chemical reactions to occur.
The Circulatory System Delivers Nutrients
We need water in the bloodstream to deliver the nutrients we have broken down to the tissues that need them. The blood is approximately 92% water so even slight dehydration in the body will result in a reduction of the water content in the blood. This means that the circulatory system is not able to deliver nutrients as efficiently, therefore we don’t work as effectively because we’re not getting the energy and nutrients to where they are needed.
The Importance of Hydration For Removal Of waste
Another extremely important function of the blood is to transport waste materials out of the tissue via the veins. As each cell uses the necessary molecules delivered to it, it creates waste products given off as part of the metabolic reaction. Waste products can include CO2 and lactic acid for instance. Once again, dehydration causes the body to be ineffecient at removing waste products from the cells as effectively.
The Pumping Mechanism
As we all know our heart pumps fresh oxygenated blood through our arteries and the arteries themselves have a muscular wall that squeezes the blood along, however the venous and lymphatic systems require compression of the surrounding skeletal muscles (which occurs through movement) to pump the blood and lymph along their respective vessels. This is why moving our body is as important as making sure we are well hydrated, as without movement there is no skeletal muscle contraction and as a result no movement of venous blood and lymph.
Valves, Veins and Deep Vein Thrombosis
The venous system operates in only one direction (back to the heart) due to a series of valves along the length of the vessels. When we are immobile, even sitting at our desks for long periods, we slow our blood flow which we call venous stasis. One serious problem that can arise from venous stasis and lack of movement is a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which is essentially a blockage caused by pooling and clotting of blood between the valves. You may have heard of DVT in relation to long-haul flights and many of us are aware of preventative methods such as compression stockings and, most importantly, regularly moving about the cabin to keep the blood circulating, but why is it we don’t take the same advice when we are at work all day?
Kinks in a Hose | The Importance of Hydration
Humans were not designed to sit for extended periods, however our lifestyles, commitments and pressures often don’t allow us to get a healthy amount of movement. Most of us are sitting for a long periods were we are essentially compressing the vessels making up the circulatory and lymphatic systems, this reduces their ability to work and therefore supply nutrients, energy and hydration to their destination and to clear the waste away from the tissues. If you picture yourself sitting; you are creating several right angles throughout the body, in the lower body the hips and the knees. Imagine that your blood supply is like water passing through a hose (the vessels) and the right angles we create and hold for extended periods of time are acting like kinks would in your garden hose, reducing the blood flow.
The Joints | The Importance of Hydration
Changes in the range and freedom at a joint may also be due to a lack of hydration. Firstly of course because our muscles attach to bones which enable us to move a joint. There are other causes to bear in mind such as degeneration and a lack of or changes to the articular cartilage within a joint, but you can also have a build up of crepitus in poorly lubricated joints from a lack of hydration. This may be apparent as an audible creaking or grinding sound or feeling in your knees, shoulders or hands for instance.
The spine | The Importance of Hydration
Hydration and movement are also important for spinal health. The spine is made up of bones called vertebrae. Between the vertebrae are spinal discs. Spinal discs keep the vertebrae apart (so the bones aren’t grinding together) and act like shock absorbers for the spine. Spinal discs have a tough exterior called the annulus fibrosus which surrounds a more gel-like part in the middle called the nucleus pulposus. To hydrate the discs it can help to think of them as sponges. A saturated sponge cannot take in any more water and you need to squeeze the sponge to exchange the dirty water it holds and to refresh it with fresh water. It’s the same with our spinal discs – the process of getting water into the gel-like substance of the spinal disc is a process called imbibition. It requires us to gently squeeze or massage the disc through movement of the spine. This movement allows us to get fresh hydration and all the nutrients it provides into the disc.
Thirsty? | The Importance of Hydration
So how do we know we’re dehydrated? Well of course we may feel thirsty. However by the time we notice that we are thirsty we are often already partially dehydrated. It’s better to keep yourself topped up by drinking small amounts and often rather than guzzling a load when we feel thirsty. Good water habits are essential – keep a bottle on your desk and sip throughout the day – you’ll be more inclined to drink it if it’s there in front of you. And make sure you drink extra water if you go to the gym at lunchtime – you’ll need the extra water for your muscles to work, the better hydrated you are, the better your workout and the more effective your time spent in the gym!
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The Importance of Hydration
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