Additional Notes on Exercise and Water in the Body

March 25, 2017

So what good might it do to push hard while exercising, to raise not only the heart rate but the blood pressure, too.

Picture more blood flowing into the capillaries and through them to the less-tended parts of the body, to the extremities, to the finger-tips, to the gums, around the joints, to places where chemicals may accumulate and cells may languish.

If one theory of the origins of some cancers is that cell division results in more mutations in some cases, what might cause that? Put another way, what conditions might foster that? Is it possible that a shortage of water in a particular location where cells are trying to grow may create a condition in which such mutations may happen more often?

When the fingers and skin dry in winter, we can blame the dry air. But is there also a factor of a lesser flow of blood reaching the affected area? Can higher pressure/greater flow help to counter that condition?

And compare the function of fatty tissue in the body to the function of water. Water flows; fat accumulates. Water carries nutrients and other chemicals; fat (again) accumulates chemicals, including toxins. Exercise moves water - but how much and where? Exercise can burn fat - and where does that happen? The most obvious fat is at the surface, skin-fold thickness type of fat. But what about the fatty tissue in and around organs, in the arteries, marbled through the body? The image of burning off that fat works better for some than the mere image of reducing skin-fold thickness. A good reason, perhaps, to row a bit harder for a bit longer every day.


Body of Water – Introduction

On Health Effects of Movement of Water in the Body through Exercise

            Rowers use water as a training surface. As a result, we may not focus on the depth of the water or the life in it, much less ways in which it is connected to other water-bearing parts of the world. Yet scientists can tell us about the interconnectedness of surface water with groundwater and precipitation – and how all three interact with movement over time. Historically, waterways were a key means of transportation – by canoe, for logs to be moved, etc. It was not uncommon for the industrial areas of cities to be built along waterways, taking in the water for processing and disposing of waste back into the same body of water. The same uses hid the water from view and, with the exception of the use of marinas and similar venues for getting onto the water, many people simply ignored rivers and other water bodies. In recent years, interest in bodies of water has increased and former industrial areas have been re-purposed, some for parks with rowing venues. Over time, science and technology (hydrogeology, for example, and the study of wetlands) have better informed us about how different forms of water on the earth are not only related but actually connected to one another – rain to surface water; lakes to streams; rivers to oceans; groundwater connecting and supporting lakes and streams; and more.

            This “Body of Water” is about seeking a similarly improved understanding of the interaction of the many forms water takes within our bodies. When we exercise, we are cautioned that our bodies are roughly 70 percent water and we should keep hydrated because becoming de-hydrated (reducing the amount of water in the body) can be unhealthy. We are all aware of the obvious, primarily sweat (loss of water through the skin) and our hearts pounding (moving more blood/water through the body faster) while we exercise. But – here is the question – what else is happening in terms of movement of water within the body during exercise? And – the ultimate question – what can that tell us about how and why exercise helps improve fitness and health?

            To use the question of perspective again: We see our bodies primarily in terms of their surface – skin, hair, muscular shape and development, for example. And we understand exercise primarily in terms of muscular work, skeletal movement, external motion and other gross physiological terms. Take another perspective:  Consider what is happening internally during exercise – specifically, what is happening to the water in our bodies?  Here are a few observations and notes as examples:

·         When we exercise, the heart pumps harder so blood flows faster and in greater volume through the blood vessels. Higher pulse is obvious. What else happens to blood vessels?  Does this extend the reach of the blood, along with the nutrients it carries, farther/to more parts of the body, e.g., through more capillaries?  Does it increase the body’s ability to fight infection?

·         We perspire – that water has to come from somewhere, but just how does it get to the surface and where does it come from?  Does increasing perspiration assist with other body/health functions (such as waste removal)?

·         We get thirsty – that thirst must arise from a need; where and how is it detected so as to trigger a sensation of thirst? And when we are thirsty/short of water, how does the body distribute the “inadequate” supply that remains?

·         The water we drink must go somewhere – not just into the stomach but from there to – where? And according to what priority/mechanisms to direct the “flow” of water within the body to blood, into cells, toward specific organs, into muscles, etc.?

·         What about the other locations containing water in the body; how does the movement of water as a result of exercise affect:

o   Lymph – production, collection, movement;

o   Fluid in and around joints;

o   Water in the eyeballs and the inner ear;

o   Water throughout the body in the cells;

o   Spinal fluid; and

o   Many other specialized and/or localized water-based fluids in the body?

With regard to each place water is contained in the body, what is its function (to hold dissolved chemicals; as a means of transport; to facilitate flow through membranes; other mechanisms and functions)? How does it interact with (or have limited interaction with) other water in the body? And how does its interaction and/or functioning change with the movement and pressure changes that occur during and/or as a result of exercise?  As one simple-minded example, can exercise help to reduce the swelling faster in a sprained ankle?

            Put another way, when we exercise and our pulse goes up and the pressure of the flow of water increases, how does it change the way it reaches and/or affects:

-the gums and teeth

-the joints

-in and around the eyes

-the inner ear, balance and hearing

-spinal fluid and nervous system functioning

-water around brain and other organs in protective linings

-lymph vs blood - how water enters the lymphatic system, and how it returns to the blood

-in and around lungs – perhaps the first key membrane we rely on as it is where we gain oxygen and get rid of waste products as we breathe

-mucus formation – protective, reactive, water source and effect?

-digestive fluids – saliva, in stomach, in intestines

-sweat – sources and pathways


-within cells and at cell membranes

-extracellular water (besides blood and lymph)

-water in solids, such as bones, that may be bound or “exchange” only very slowly, but do contain water

-liver, kidneys and other filtering organs

-hormones – formation and transport

And the list can go on and on. . . .

            And then the question is – with a complete picture of the presence and flow of water combined with an understanding of how that changes during physical exercise, what is or can be expected to result in practical terms, such as the effect on sore joints, fighting infection, maintaining healthy gums, etc., etc.?