Exercise is a healthy activity that should be done every day, if possible, or at least several times each week. Adults need a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity every week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physical exertion requires water intake to prevent dehydration. Water prevents one type of cramp during exercise, but it can cause another type.
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Muscle cramps have many different causes, but overexertion during exercise is a common trigger, MedlinePlus advises. Any type of physical activity can cause cramping if you overwork your muscles or injure one of them. Low calcium and mineral levels contribute to the possibility of cramps, as does dehydration. The most likely areas affected by dehydration or other cramping causes are your thighs and the backs of your lower legs, although stomach, arm, hand and feet cramps can happen, too. Drinking enough water before and during exercise to replace your loss from sweating helps prevent the tightness and pain.
Stomach cramps are sometimes caused by drinking water during exercise if you drink too much at once. You need water to maintain proper hydration levels when you are doing strenuous physical activity, but you need to moderate your intake. Former Navy SEAL Stew Smith advises limiting yourself to small, frequent sips of liquid during exercise to avoid exercise-related stomach cramps. Refrain from eating or drinking large amounts of water or other liquids 2 to 4 hours prior to your exercise session. Take one or two swallows of water at a time during your workout.
Drinking water correctly, in small sips that prevent stomach cramps, is essential during exercise because dehydration interferes with physical activity and has bad effects on your body. Your heart rate is higher when you are not adequately hydrated, your core temperature goes up and blood flow to your skin is reduced, according to Bob Murray of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute. Eventually you get prematurely fatigued, and you even run the risk of a more serious problem like heat stroke, depending on environmental conditions.
Be alert for dehydration if you are not drinking enough water because you fear triggering stomach cramps. Early signs include thirst, dryness and stickiness in your mouth, reduced need to urinate and sunken eyes. You must drink immediately when you notice these symptoms to avoid further problems. Continuing to exercise without drinking puts you at risk for loss of consciousness, according to PubMed Health. You may need IV therapy in a hospital if you let yourself get severely dehydrated.