IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  February 1, 2003

Winter Dehydration

Most people don't think about hydrating in the winter is that they believe that dehydration is a function of temperature. It is to some extent but it is more a function of humidity. Any time conditions cause the humidity level to drop, i.e., summer heat or man-made indoor heat, the body is susceptible to losing excess water.

In arid climates like Arizona, the temperature can reach 130 degrees. When this occurs, water in the atmosphere is dispersed. Sweating occurs just as much as in a climate like Florida. However, the sweat is immediately evaporated in an dry climate. An individual may not even be aware that they have been sweating. Sweating is more obvious in temperate and tropical climates. Feelings of thirst are unreliable indicators of hydration level. It is believed that once you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated. Our sense of thirst also diminishes as we age. It is therefore possible to be at dangerous levels of dehydration well before we feel thirsty, especially for older populations.

Therefore, in the winter, when most of our time is spent indoors where humidity levels can drop to arid climate extremes, we can lose water without being fully aware. It evaporates like it does in arid climates. Most people think of keeping a thermometer in the house but few have hygrometers which measure the relative humidity. Minimum humidity levels to maintain good health should be around 35% to 40% at a minimum. Recommended levels are at around 60%. It is even thought that colds and flu are a function of dried mucosal passages in the nose and throat, which lose their ability to fight off germs and infection.

From a Biological Sciences perspective, cells function in a wet environment. Liquids are used to transport nutrients throughout the body. Nerves (including the brain) communicate in a wet environment. When hydration falls below minimum levels, muscles and nerves lose their full functionality. We only notice it when it becomes extreme as in heat stroke (confusion and loss of muscle control). Don't even think about physically stressing the body under dehydrated conditions. Workouts at the gym, sports, mental acuity all require optimum system performance.

The body is very much a machine, albeit, an organic electro-chemical one. Let even 25% of the water out of your radiator on the car and then try to haul your boat up the hill. Not only will you have a loss of power but you certainly will shorten the life of the engine and the transmission. As a system, all subsystems are affected. The same is true of the body. Unfortunately, most people take better care of their cars and even know more about them than their bodies.

Sleep It Off

According to a study at the University of Chicago Medical School, chronic lack of sufficient sleep can slow the metabolism by as much as 40%. After 1 week of sleep deprivation, the average young adult had a metabolism equivalent to a 65 year old.

Out of Bounds

As Personal Trainers we tread along a fine line between dispensing fitness advice and medical advice, the latter being out of our area of expertise. It is an easy trap. Most of our clients assume that we are equipped to deal with medical problems since we are "knowledgeable" about the body. To cross that line is not only a disservice to our clients but can expose the Trainer to legal ramifications.

The difference between the two areas of study is well defined. Anything having to do with injuries, disease, or pathogenic conditions is considered a medical problem. Taking a healthy, normal individual from the norm to a more fit condition is considered in the realm of the Trainer. Recommending aspirin for pain is prescribing medication. Suppose the client is allergic to aspirin or has a bleeding ulcer, you will be liable for injuries sustained. Have you given the client a full physical, no it's not in your expertise to do so. Just because the medication is classified as "over-the-counter" does not mean that it is not medication. So the standard advice for muscle soreness after a workout to take ibuprofen and rest for a couple of days is stepping over the bounds of the Trainer. If you are not sure about this, ask your insurance company and get it in writing if they say it's ok. Can you recommend sleep and hot chicken soup, yes but not as a remedy for an injury. You may instinctively know that ibuprofen is the remedy for sore muscles, just as you know that amoxicylin is the cure for a bacterial rash but you would know better than to recommend it to a client; some people are severely allergic to this type of antibiotic.

Shipboard Trainers of History

Did you know that while the band on the Titanic played, the Personal Trainer in the gymnasium encouraged people to try out the new equipment as the ship was sinking. Also, in the late 18th century, Captain Bligh of the HMS Bounty encouraged his crew to group dance everyday. In fact it was an order. He felt that it fostered good mind and healthy body.

Q & A

Q: I'm a fairly fit 20 year old. I do a mixture of cycling, rowing and running for exercise. I've recently bought a heart rate monitor and have found that my heart rate reaches rather high levels. For instance today I went for a 50 min run, and my heart rate averaged 172 overall and was often above 180. Is this dangerous? I felt tired afterwards but nothing unusual. What sort of training would be best to reduce my heart rate?

A: Your max heart rate is 200. This is found by subtracting your age from 220. For cardio training benefits, you will want to work at the 80% to 85% of your maximum heart rate. Therefore, you should be at 160 bpm to 170 bpm. Chocolate, Caffeine and certain herbals are a stimulant and may be causing the higher heart rate. The best cardio training is just what you are doing. Continue monitoring your heart rate and keep it below 170. If your feel dizzy or light-headed and experience any pain, then you should see a doctor.


Q: I need your help urgently. I am having severe hair loss for 6-7 months now. I am afraid that I am becoming bald. I need your help. What are the precautions or medicines that I have to take? I am taking a multi-vitamin and iron with folic acid for 2 months without improvement. I even tried using minoxidil without any improvement. Ten months ago, I got had surgery. I used lot of antibiotics. Could this be the reason for my hair loss? Hope you can provide an answer for my problem as soon as possible.

A: Sometimes stress will cause this. Don't worry it is most likely temporary. Use a good shampoo to unclog pores in the scalp. Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can also be a cause. Medicines don't cause it to grow but they may cause it to temporarily fall out. The surgery is very stressful to the body. And lastly, if you worry about your hair, it too can cause it to fall out... stress. So be happy, drink plenty of water and eat well.


Q: What can I do to protect myself from law suits when training people in my home against sexual harrassment?

A: The fact that you have a concern leads me to believe that this is an issue that you've seen happen before. Some areas are more litigious than others. If you have a genuine concern, chances are that it is an valid one. A doctor deals with the situation by having a nurse present. Obviously he has no other option. He has a concern because he has seen it happen before. It's a personal and business decision to make on your part based on the area that you are in and the people that you will be training. There is no easy solution, if their where, the problem wouldn't exist. The only other option is to train other than young women, which won't prevent the problem but may limit your exposure.