Harvard College Health Advocacy Program

Feeling Down? Have some water.

By on September 22, 2013


With the 2013-2014 school year now in full swing, Harvard students are busy as ever, gallivanting all over campus for clubs, classes, and social events. Even with a jam-packed schedule, there are many easy ways to stay healthy and prevent illness before it happens. One simple, well-known way to keep health and vitality up is to stay hydrated through out the day. Water makes up roughly 60% of your body weight and is vital for the function of every system in the body, flushing out toxins, transporting nutrients, aiding with enzymatic function and much more.

While symptoms of severe dehydration are well known, including headache, fatigue, constipation, dry skin and dry mouth, a recent study at Tufts University suggests that even moderate dehydration (as low as 2% of body weight) can have a negative effect on mood and energy. In the study athletes who had been deprived of water during a workout were compared with hydrated athletes using cognitive tests and quantitative mood surveys. Dehydrated participants reported significantly higher levels of anger, depression and tension, along with lower levels of vigor in comparison to hydrated subjects, after just one workout! In another study, more significant dehydration impacted physical structure and function of the brain, making cognitive activities much more difficult.

While there is no perfect daily quantity of water for everyone, most recommendations are around 8 standard glasses per day, and this amount should be increased with exercise, illness and hot weather. Most importantly, listen to your body to determine how much water you need to feel good, because needs will obviously vary from person to person. It has also been shown that drinking a lot of water all at once is not as beneficial as keeping hydrated through out the day. This is best achieved by keeping a water bottle with you and re-filing whenever possible.

So if you are feeling tired, down or have a headache, try re-filling your water bottle for a quick, cheap and easy pick me up with minimal inconvenience or additional stress.

Have a HAPpyday!


D’anci, Kristen; Vibhakar, Arjun; Kanter, Jordan. Voluntary Dehydration and Cognitive Performance in Trained College Athletes. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 2009, 109, 251-269. (2009)

Kempton, Mathew et. al Dehydration Affects Brain Structure and Function in Healthy Adolescents. Human Brain Mapping 32:71–79 (2011)

Shipmann, Chris. “How to get more Energy.” Womenshealthmag.com. N.p., 05 Apr. 2007. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.

Staff, Mayo Clinic. Dehydration: Symptoms “Definition.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 07 Jan. 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.

Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Water: How Much Should You Drink Every Day?” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 12 Oct. 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.

Harvard College Health Advocacy Program's mission is to connect Boston youth and Harvard undergraduates with health education and wellness resources so that they may actively pursue a healthy lifestyle. To achieve this goal off-campus, HAP's mentors work with elementary, middle, and high school students to teach hands-on health curricula covering topics such as nutrition, exercise, food advertising, and music and noise induced hearing damage in youth. On-campus, HAP promotes our mission by hosting health-themed study breaks, group exercise socials, and resourceful cooking seminars. We believe bringing together undergraduates passionate about healthy living will enable us to improve the health of the communities in which we live.


  1. alice
    September 24, 2013

    this is such a great reminder- water is just so easy to take for granted! Anyone who’s up for some light reading: there’s a passage in Life of Pi that describes the feeling of drinking water on the verge of dying from thirst- it’s BETTER than liquid gold.

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