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Why hydration?

What are the benefits of hydration to a school?

Legal requirement

The law on drinking water for children, as stated in the Education (School Premises) Regulations 1999, says that “A school shall have a wholesome supply of water for domestic purposes including a supply of drinking water.” 

While this is rather vague, there are other regulations, guidelines and resources that require and encourage schools to provide free, fresh drinking water throughout the school day. Notably, the Children’s Food Trust standards state that throughout the school day, “Children and young people must have easy access at all times to free, fresh drinking water in schools.”

Benefit to learning, cognition and performance

It has been conclusively proven time after time, in study after study, not only that dehydration negatively affects academic and physical performance, but also that drinking water even when already hydrated actually improves performance: in other words, it’s not so much a question of maintaining the status quo, but of improving it.   Hydration promotes blood flow, which in turn means that more oxygen reaches the brain and also the muscles, which results in optimised performance both mentally and physically.

Benefit to concentration & attention

Symptoms of mild dehydration, including light-headedness, dizziness, headaches or migraine and fatigue, all contribute to a lack of alertness and concentration.  Once the symptoms have progressed to thirst, at which stage children can have lost up to 2% of their body weight in water, mental performance including memory, attention and concentration can decrease by up to 10%.

Not only does dehydration reduce the capacity to learn and concentrate, a drink of water can increase it.  Studies have shown this on a number of occasions.

It was reported by schools who took part in the Food in Schools water provision pilot scheme that providing water led to a noticeable improvement in the learning environment.  Teachers said that “enhanced water provision contributed to a more settled and productive learning environment, as well as helping to instil good habits.” It has also been suggested that this more settled learning environment helps with behaviour management in the classroom.

Benefit to weight management

Continued hydration has been repeatedly linked to weight management, for a number of reasons: thirst signals can be confused with hunger signals, and water can actually help to fill the stomach up, helping it to feel fuller for longer. Added to this, if water is drunk instead of sugary soft drinks, fruit juices or smoothies or full-fat milk, that’s up to 350 calories per 500ml drink which is no longer being consumed.

Benefit to happiness

Another lesser known effect of hydration is that drinking water can actually make us happier.  It is thought that the physical wellness which results from adequate hydration can lead to a corresponding mental state of happiness.

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