Water, Water, Everywhere

This past weekend I was in Denver, visiting family, and I took my usual morning walk along one of the walking/running/biking paths… and it seemed like I ran across more than a hundred people, most of them incredibly fit-looking, not exactly a surprise, given that Colorado is rated as the most “fit” state in the union. As a walker, albeit a fast walker who can almost keep up with the slower joggers, the few other walkers and I were definitely outnumbered by runners and bikers. And I was definitely outnumbered by all those who carried water-bottles and water back-packs; even some of the slowest walkers seemed to be carting water bottles.

I’ve never seen so many people carting water, and I have to ask why.

Living as I do in Cedar City, which is high desert, and dry enough most of the time to make Denver seem tropical by comparison, I’m well aware of the dangers of dehydration. I always make sure I’m hydrated before I take my walk, and then again after I return.

While the average humidity in Denver is around 50%, in Cedar City, from April to October it’s around 22%, and the high temperatures are close to those in Denver. But I don’t see the same proliferation of water paraphernalia in my home town as I was seeing in Denver.

What exactly is the concern with hydration that goes with the physical fitness cult?

I definitely understand the need for adequate fluids, especially on hot days,or if you’re well away from civilization. I certainly understand the need for endurance and long-distance runners to carry water bottles… but for 20 to 40 minute walks or runs, especially early in the day when it’s cooler? But then, when I did a little research, it turned out that if you’re exercising and in good health, it’s just about impossible to drink too much water.

But I still wonder if hydration is being overemphasized. Does everyone need to carry water all the time, especially in the middle of a city?

6 thoughts on “Water, Water, Everywhere”

  1. Thomas says:

    Unfortunately, the field of fitness is rife with often groundless conventional ‘wisdom’. This article may help to explain the origins of the phenomenon in question:


    As for my own experience, and I suspect, that of many others, even knowing that I probably consume more water than is necessary during exercise, the process has become somewhat habitual. As you said, it isn’t likely to have any negative impacts on health, and the placebo effect of ‘constant hydration’ is far from unwelcome.

  2. Jeff says:

    I saw the title of your post in my blogroll and thought maybe you were writing about your recent rain–or at least that south of you that made the morning news.

    For walks of less than an hour I seldom carry water. Longer hikes and backpacks, I do carry water and out there I used to tote a lot of it. Here, where it is hot and humid, I tend to drink more.

    Stay dry!

  3. Thomas says:

    Unfortunately, conventional wisdom with little or no scientific basis is all too common in fitness circles. The following article may help to explain the particular phenomenon that you observed:


    However, I must concede that I myself probably drink much more water than is necessary when exercising, and though born of misconception, it has now become somewhat habitual. Still, I find being ‘constantly hydrated’ has something of a positive placebo effect, of which I certainly can’t complain, and I’m confident that many others would agree.

  4. Steve says:

    PBS is currently running a program titled, “How We Got To Now”. One of their programs focuses on the purification and chlorination of water. The true wonder is that all of this water we drink isn’t killing us. Safe drinking water and good sewers/water treatment are the great blessing of the last 120 years. With clean hot and cold running water at our fingertips that is channeled away for purification after use, we live better than kings and queens of the past.

    If you would indulge my interest in public health I would also recommend a program by Nova, also on PBS entitled, “Calling the Shots”. It has good information about vaccines, which are second only to good clean water in saving lives.

  5. Tim says:

    The cause of needing water at every opportunity can, at least here in the UK, be laid at the feet of the medical people. Any visit to the surgery could end up with you being advised to drink more water.

    I wonder how we ever survived in the past centuries without a bottle of water to hand.

    Medicine however is not an exact science:)

  6. D Archerd says:

    Actually, as Steve points out, until the last 120 years, drinking plain water was generally a death sentence, which is why the usual beverages of choice were tea, wine, or beer over the bulk of the history of human civilization. Hopefully, we’ll continue to be able to enjoy the benefits of pure water in the future.

    On the other hand, the misuse of antibiotics and the steady growth of resistant strains of bacteria and viruses may cause our descendants to regard the late 20th and early 21st centuries as “the plague-free years”, unique in all of human history.

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