Combat Driver Dehydration with the Many Benefits of Proper Hydration

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Combat Driver Dehydration with the Many Benefits of Proper Hydration

In the ground-breaking and peer-reviewed Loughborough study published last year, results showed the alarming effects of driver dehydration on driving performance. Dehydrated drivers made twice as many ‘driver errors’ as their hydrated counterparts, while their perceived ability to concentrate and levels of alertness were also significantly lower. In an even more disturbing context, the researchers went on to draw a parallel between driver dehydration and driver intoxication or sleep deprivation – the study found that ‘a similar increase in driver error rate had been observed when driving following the ingestion of an alcoholic beverage resulting in a blood alcohol content of approximately 0.08% (the current UK legal driving limit), or while sleep deprived’.

The study, which was partly funded by the European Hydration Institute (EHI), shows unequivocally that hydration is yet another crucial factor to incorporate in any strategy aimed at combatting driver error and reducing vehicle incidents. While proper hydration helps to ensure safer driving, on a more basic level it provides a number of benefits to our bodies all of which help us to perform at our best. According to the EHI, these are some of the remarkable benefits of good hydration.

Adequate hydration is important for proper functioning of the brain. When we are well hydrated, brain cells are better supplied with fresh, oxygen-laden blood, and the brain remains alert. Mild dehydration, a 1% to 2% loss in body weight, can impair the ability to concentrate. Loss of more than 2% body weight due to dehydration can affect the brain’s processing abilities and impair short-term memory.

Hydration in the body is important for transporting carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients and oxygen to the cells. The cells then produce energy for the body to function. Furthermore, hydration facilitates disposal of the waste products of metabolism, enabling the right cellular chemical function.

Digestive Tract
Hydration plays an important role in the digestion of food and the absorption of nutrients from the digestive tract. Water is required to dissolve nutrients so that they may be absorbed into the bloodstream and delivered to the cells. Insufficient hydration will slow the digestive process and chronic poor hydration can lead to constipation.

Fluids are important for healthy heart function and the correct regulation of water balance is essential to keep blood pressure within the healthy range. Dehydration decreases cardiac output which may lead to increases in heart rate and a fall in blood pressure. The circulatory system delivers a constant supply of oxygen to the brain, muscles and to all other tissues.

An adequate water intake is essential to keep the kidneys working well, helping them to remove waste products and excess nutrients mainly via urine. The kidneys regulate the body’s water levels by increasing or decreasing the flow of urine. The kidneys also work to control normal levels of sodium and other electrolytes. A well-hydrated healthy person’s kidneys filter approximately 180 litres of water each day: clearly most of this has to be reabsorbed to prevent excessive losses from the body.

The body water has an important role as a thermoregulator, regulating the overall body temperature by helping dissipate heat. If the body becomes too hot, water is lost through sweat and the evaporation of this sweat from the skin surface removes heat from the body. Sweating is the most effective way that the body prevents itself from overheating.

Muscles and Joints
Water acts as a lubricant for muscles and joints; it helps cushion joints and keeps muscles working properly. Muscles and joints, in addition to the bones, are necessary for us to stand, sit, move and carry out all daily activities. Approximately 70 to 75 percent of the muscle is made up of water. Maintaining the right water balance is essential for optimum muscle function.

Indisputable is that proper hydration is essential to the physiological well-being and subsequent performance of all. By increasing water intake not only is driver dehydration minimised, thereby helping to reduce potential driver errors, but it also improves the general health and well-being of all employees – for this and more on the benefits of good hydration, see the Optimal Hydration Guide included in the Driving Hydration package.

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