Think about a hot summer day. You step outside the office for a brisk lunchtime walk, and by the time you’re back at your desk, what happens? You’re parched, maybe a bit sweaty. Definitely ready for a drink.
Dehydration can happen to any age group and is a risk most associated with hot weather–which is why hydration challenges are a popular corporate wellness choice in the summer months, and good to practice for your own personal wellness too. But there are multiple reasons that you can actually become more dehydrated in cold weather than warm weather.
What causes winter dehydration?
Many of the usual sensory triggers that tell us to grab water are lessened in the winter. We’re also more likely to reach for a hot cup of coffee — great for waking up, but not so great for staying hydrated.
Much like houseplants, we need water year-round, says Dr. Lisa Jahns, Research Nutritionist for the USDA.
“Without the summer heat to work up a thirst, many of us may not drink as much water in the winter months as our bodies require. Yet, cold weather can be as dry as desert heat,” writes Jahns.
Environmental factors like wind chill and dry air can also contribute to your body being robbed of moisture.
“This is because cold air cannot hold very much moisture. Indoor heating creates a very dry environment as well. Even without sweating, our bodies lose moisture through the skin.”
Ideal indoor humidity during winter should stay around 45 percent, but constant heating and dry air can cause it to drop to levels of 15 percent or less!
So your cozy heated office may actually be creating a desert-like environment, leaving your skin, nose, sinuses, and throat parched.
How to combat winter dehydration
Now that you know to watch out for this silent danger, here’s how to incorporate healthy changes this season.
- To start, drink more water! The current recommendation for adults is around 131 fluid ounces for men per day, and 95 ounces for women. (This includes everything you drink, plus water from foods you eat.)
- Try setting an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to drink once an hour. That’s also a great time to get up a stretch, if you work a sedentary job.
- Food counts for 20 to 30 percent of our water intake. Eat fruits and vegetables that are rich in water content.
- Consider adding cool mist humidifiers to your workspace, or exploring a more industrial option with your office manager. Unsure how humid your space is? A hygrometer tool can test the air for a little as $10.
- Hold a winter health fair! Educate your team about the importance of hydration and exercise (only 23% of American’s get enough exercise on a daily basis), and the dangers of winter dehydration. Offer water bottles, moisturizing lotions, or unscented lip balms as giveaways.
- Run a hydration challenge, like IncentFit’s Rethink Your Drink!