By Mary Hoff
Klaus Lackner has a picture of the future in his mind, and it looks something like this: 100 million semi-trailer-size boxes, each filled with a beige fabric configured into what looks like shag carpet to maximize surface area. Each box draws in air as though it were breathing. As it does, the fabric absorbs carbon dioxide, which it later releases in concentrated form to be made into concrete or plastic or piped far underground, effectively cancelling its ability to contribute to climate change.
Though the technology is not yet operational, it's "at the verge of moving out of the laboratory, so we can show how it works on a small scale," said Lackner, director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at Arizona State University. Once he has all the kinks worked out, he figured that, combined, the network of boxes could capture perhaps 100 million metric tons (110 million tons) of CO2 per day at a cost of $30 per ton—making a discernible dent in the climate-disrupting overabundance of CO2 that has built up in the air since humans began burning fossil fuels in earnest 150 years ago.
Lackner is one of hundreds, if not thousands, of scientists around the world who are working on ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere, capturing carbon from the atmosphere using plants, rocks or engineered chemical reactions and storing it in soil, products such as concrete and plastic, rocks, underground reservoirs or the deep blue sea.
Some of the strategies—known collectively as carbon dioxide removal or negative emissions technologies—are just twinkles in their envisioners' eyes. Others—low-tech schemes like planting more forests or leaving crop residues in the field, or more high-tech "negative emissions" setups like the CO2-capturing biomass fuel plant that went online last spring in Decatur, Illinois—are already underway. Their common aim: To help us out of the climate change fix we've gotten ourselves into.
"We can't just decarbonize our economy, or we won't meet our carbon goal," said Noah Deich, co-founder and executive director with the Center for Carbon Removal in Oakland, California. "We have to go beyond to clean up carbon from the atmosphere ... [And] we need to start urgently if we are to have real markets and real solutions available to us that are safe and cost effective by 2030."
Virtually all climate change experts agree that to avoid catastrophe we must first and foremost put everything we can into reducing CO2 emissions. But an increasing number are saying that's not enough. If we are to limit atmospheric warming to a level below which irreversible changes become inevitable, they argue, we'll need to actively remove CO2 from the air in fairly hefty quantities as well.
"It's almost impossible that we would hit 2°C, and even less so 1.5°C, without some sort of negative emissions technology," said Pete Smith, chair in plant and soil science at the University of Aberdeen and one of the world's leaders in climate change mitigation.
In fact, scientists from around the world who recently drew up a "road map" to a future that gives us good odds of keeping warming below the 2 ºC threshold lean heavily on reducing carbon emissions by completely phasing out fossil fuels—but also require that we actively remove CO2 from the atmosphere. Their scheme calls for sequestering 0.61 metric gigatons (a gigaton, abbreviated Gt, is a billion metric tons or 0.67 billion tons) of CO2 per year by 2030, 5.51 by 2050, and 17.72 by 2100. Human-generated CO2 emissions were around 40 Gt in 2015, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Reports periodically appear pointing out that one approach or another is not going to cut it: Trees can store carbon, but they compete with agriculture for land, soil can't store enough, machines like the ones Lackner envisions take too much energy, we don't have the engineering figured out for underground storage.
It's likely true that no one solution is the fix, all have pros and cons, and many have bugs to work out before they're ready for prime time. But in the right combination, and with some serious research and development, they could make a big difference. And, as an international team of climate scientists recently pointed out, the sooner the better, because the task of reducing greenhouse gases will only become larger and more daunting the longer we delay.
Smith suggests dividing the many approaches into two categories—relatively low-tech "no regrets" strategies that are ready to go, such as reforestation and improving agricultural practice, and advanced options that need substantial research and development to become viable. Then, he suggests, deploy the former and get working on the latter. He also advocates for minimizing the downsides and maximizing the benefits by carefully matching the right approach with the right location.
"There are probably good ways and bad ways of doing everything," Smith said. "I think we need to find the good ways of doing these things."
Deich, too, supports the simultaneous pursuit of multiple options. "We don't want a technology, we want lots of complementary solutions in a broader portfolio that updates often as new information about the solutions emerges."
With that in mind, here is a quick look at some of the main approaches being considered, including a ballpark projection based on current knowledge of CO2 storage potential distilled from a variety of sources—including preliminary results from a University of Michigan study expected to be released later this year—as well as summaries of advantages, disadvantages, maturity, uncertainties and thoughts about the circumstances under which each might best be applied.
Afforestation and Reforestation
Pay your entrance fee, drive up a winding road through Sequoia National Park in California, hike half a mile through the woods, and you'll find yourself at the feet of General Sherman, the world's largest tree. With some 52,500 cubic feet (1,487 cubic meters) of wood in its trunk, the behemoth has more than 1,400 metric tons (1,500 tons) of CO2 trapped in its trunk alone.
Though its size is clearly exceptional, the General gives an idea of trees' potential to suck CO2 from the air and store it in wood, bark, leaf and root. In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimated that a single hectare (2.5 acres) of forest can take up somewhere between 1.5 and 30 metric tons (1.6 and 33 tons) of CO2 per year, depending on the kinds of trees, how old they are, the climate and so on.
Worldwide forests currently sequester on the order of 2 Gt CO2 per year. Concerted efforts to plant trees in new places (afforest) and replant deforested acreage (reforest) could increase this by a gigaton or more, depending on species, growth patterns, economics, politics and other variables. Forest management practices emphasizing carbon storage and genetic modification of trees and other forest plants to improve their ability to take up and store carbon could push these numbers higher.
Another way to help enhance trees' ability to store carbon is to make long-lasting products from them—wood-frame buildings, books and so on. Using carbon-rich wood for construction, for example, could extend trees' storage capacity beyond forests' borders, with wood storage and afforestation combining for a potential 1.3–14 Gt CO2 per year possible, according to The Climate Institute, an Australia-based research organization.
Carbon FarmingMost farming is intended to produce something that's harvested from the land. Carbon farming is the opposite. It uses plants to trap CO2, then strategically uses practices such as reducing tilling, planting longer-rooted crops and incorporating organic materials into the soil to encourage the trapped carbon to move into—and stay in—the soil.
"Currently, many agricultural, horticultural, forestry and garden soils are a net carbon source. That is, these soils are losing more carbon than they are sequestering," noted Christine Jones, founder of the Australia-based nonprofit Amazing Carbon. "The potential for reversing the net movement of CO2 to the atmosphere through improved plant and soil management is immense. Indeed, managing vegetative cover in ways that enhance the capacity of soil to sequester and store large volumes of atmospheric carbon in a stable form offers a practical and almost immediate solution to some of the most challenging issues currently facing humankind."
Soil's carbon-storing capacity could go even higher if research initiatives by the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy, a U.S. government agency that provides research support for innovative energy technologies, and others aimed at improving crops' capacity to transfer carbon to the soil are successful. And, points out Eric Toensmeier, author of The Carbon Farming Solution, the capacity of farmland to store carbon can be dramatically increased by including trees in the equation as well.
"Generally it is practices that incorporate trees that have the most carbon [storage]—often two to 10 times more carbon per hectare, which is a pretty big deal," Toensmeier said.
Although forests and farmland have drawn the most attention, other kinds of vegetation—grasslands, coastal vegetation, peatlands—also take up and store CO2, and efforts to enhance their ability to do so could contribute to the carbon storage cause around the world.
Coastal plants, such as mangroves, seagrasses and vegetation inhabiting tidal salt marshes, excel at sequestering CO2 in vegetation—significantly more per area than terrestrial forests, according to Meredith Muth, international program manager with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"These are incredibly carbon-rich ecosystems," said Emily Pidgeon, Conservation International senior director of strategic marine initiatives. That's because the oxygen-poor soil in which they grow inhibits release of CO2 back to the atmosphere, so rather than cycling back into the atmosphere, carbon simply builds up layer by layer over the centuries. With mangroves sequestering roughly 1,400 metric tons (1,500 tons) per hectare (2. 5 acres); salt marshes, 900 metric tons (1,000 tons); and seagrass, 400 metric tons (400 tons), restoring lost coastal vegetation and extending coastal habitats holds potential to sequester substantial carbon. And researchers are eyeing strategies such as reducing pollution and managing sediment disturbance to make these ecosystems absorb even more CO2.
And, Pidgeon added, such vegetation provides a double climate benefit because it also helps protect coastlines from erosion as warming causes sea levels to rise.
"It's the perfect climate change ecosystem, especially in some of the more vulnerable places," she said. "It provides storm protection, erosion control, maintains the local fishery. In terms of climate change, it's immensely valuable, whether talking mitigation or adaptation."
Bioenergy & Bury
In addition to tapping vegetation's capacity to store CO2 in plant parts and soil, humans can enhance sequestration by socking away the carbon plants absorb in other ways. A $208 million power plant that started operation earlier this year in the heart of Illinois farm country is a tangible example of this approach and what is currently widely seen as the most promising technology-based strategy for removing large amounts of carbon from the air: bioenergy carbon capture and storage, or BECCS.
BECCS generally starts with converting biomass into a usable energy source such as liquid fuel or electricity. But then it takes the concept one key step further. Rather than sending the CO2 released during the process into the air, as conventional facilities do, it captures and concentrates it, then traps it in material such as concrete or plastic or—as is the case for the Decatur plant—injects it into rock formations that trap the carbon far below Earth's surface.
A related strategy proposes using ocean plants such as kelp instead of land plants. This would reduce the need to compete with food production and land habitat preservation for land. This option has not been explored as much as land-based BECCS, however, so the number of unknowns is even higher.
On the storage end of things, many of the technologies proposed are still in concept or early development stage. But if developed correctly, the approach has "potentially got quite a significant impact," said professor Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen.
Another way to enhance plants' ability to store carbon is to partly burn materials such as logging slash or crop waste to make a carbon-rich, slow-to-decompose substance known as biochar, which can then be buried or spread on farmland. Biochar has been used for centuries to enrich soil for farming, but of late has been drawing increased attention for its ability to sequester carbon—as evidenced by the fact that three of 10 finalists in a $25 million Earth Challenge launched by Virgin in 2007 tap this approach.
Oregon Department of Forestry
Fertilizing the Ocean
Plants and plantlike organisms that live in the ocean absorb immeasurable amounts of CO2 each year, their ability to do so limited only by the availability of iron, nitrogen and other nutrients they need to grow and multiply. So researchers are looking at strategies for fertilizing the ocean or bringing nutrients up from the depths to hyperdrive plants' ability to trap and store carbon.
A decade or so ago, companies began forming to do just that, with the plan of reaping rewards from the soon-to-be-established global carbon market. Such plans have largely remained on the drawing board, stymied by substantial uncertainties over how to put a price tag on carbon, concerns over disrupting fisheries and ocean ecosystems more generally, and the high energy requirements and costs that would likely be involved. In addition, we don't have a clear picture of how much of the carbon trapped would actually stay in the ocean rather than reentering the atmosphere.
CO2 is naturally removed from the atmosphere every day through reactions between rainwater and rocks. Some climate scientists propose enhancing this process—and so increasing CO2 removal from the atmosphere—through artificial measures such as crushing rocks and exposing them to CO2 in a reaction chamber or spreading them over large areas of land or ocean, increasing the surface area over which the reactions can occur.
As currently imagined, strategies to enhance carbon storage by reacting CO2 with rocks are expensive and energy-intensive due to the need to transport and process large quantities of heavy material. Some also require extensive land use and so have potential to compete with other needs such as food production and biodiversity protection. Researchers are looking at ways to use mine waste and otherwise refine the strategy to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Direct Air Capture and Storage
The carbon-sequestering containers from Arizona State University's Lackner, along with other projects such as Climeworks' just-opened carbon-trapping facility in Switzerland, represent one of the more widely discussed greenhouse gas capture and storage technologies being proposed today. Known as direct air capture and storage, this approach uses chemicals or solids to capture the gas from thin air, then, as in the case of BECCS, stores it for the long haul underground or in long-lasting materials.
Already used in submarines beneath the surface of the ocean and in space vehicles far above it, direct air capture theoretically can remove CO2 from the air a thousand times more efficiently than plants, according to Lackner.
The technology, however, is embryonic. And because it requires plucking CO2 molecules from everything else in the air, it is a huge energy hog. On the flip side, this approach has the big advantage of being deployable anywhere on the planet.
Where to From Here?
If anything is clear from this summary, it's these two things: First, there is a lot of potential to augment efforts to reduce CO2 emissions with strategies to increase the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. Second, there's a lot of work to be done before we're able to do so at a meaningful scale and in a way that not only closes the carbon gap but also protects the environment and meets more immediate human needs.
"Based on current technology, there really is no combination of negative emissions technologies currently available that would be employable at sufficient scale to help meet the below-2 °C target without truly significant impacts," said Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy and a chief scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists. "We can in principle deploy negative emissions technologies, but we do not have the understanding or the policies to do so on a sufficient scale."
With the need to do something becoming ever more urgent, researchers are starting to take a closer look at the pros, cons and potential of the various opportunities and put together research agendas to advance the most promising in the right places at the right time. In May 2017, a National Academy of Sciences study panel began holding a series of strategy sessions to identify research priorities for moving forward.
"Our job on this committee is to recommend a research agenda to solve a lot of these problems, to bring the cost down, to bring the efficiency of the program up, to overcome the barriers for scale up and implementation and governance and especially verification and monitoring," panel chair Stephen Pacala, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology with Princeton University, said in a video describing the initiative.
That said, it's important to remember that technology may not be the limiting factor in the long run.
"I don't think it's a technical challenge," said Deich. "I think it's a willingness to pay and a willingness to get clear, consistent and fair regulations around these solutions." In other words, getting carbon storage up and running ultimately is about creating markets and/or policies that reward it while also taking into consideration social and environmental dimensions. "It's not necessarily, 'Can these things get to scale?' It's, 'Is there somebody who's willing to pay for them to get to scale?"
The most obvious way to do this would be to affix a price to carbon, which would translate into financial benefit for socking it away.
In the end carbon storage is not cheap, Smith admits—but, he points out, neither is climate change.
The way Lackner puts it is this: We're traveling at high speed down a mountain in a car coming up to a hairpin turn, and it's not so much a question of whether we hit the guard rail as to whether we can slow down enough, so that when we do we bounce off rather than catapult over it into oblivion.
"I cannot guarantee it will work," he said of his CO2-trapping devices. "I'm an optimist, but I likely cannot guarantee it. The fact that it might not work, the possibility that it might not work, is not by itself an excuse not to try. If we don't make it work, I am very certain we will be in for very tough times."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Ensia.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By James Shulmeister
Climate Explained is a collaboration between The Conversation, Stuff and the New Zealand Science Media Centre to answer your questions about climate change.
If you have a question you'd like an expert to answer, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
What was the climate and sea level like at times in Earth’s history when carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was at 400ppm?<p>The last time global carbon dioxide levels were consistently at or above 400 parts per million (ppm) was around <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature14145" target="_blank">four million years ago</a> during a geological period known as the <a href="http://www.geologypage.com/2014/05/pliocene-epoch.html" target="_blank">Pliocene Era</a> (between 5.3 million and 2.6 million years ago). The world was about 3℃ warmer and sea levels were higher than today.</p><p>We know how much carbon dioxide the atmosphere contained in the past by studying ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica. As compacted snow gradually changes to ice, it traps air in bubbles that contain <a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annals-of-glaciology/article/enclosure-of-air-during-metamorphosis-of-dry-firn-to-ice/09D9C60A8DA412D16645E6E6ABC1892F" target="_blank">samples of the atmosphere at the time</a>. We can sample ice cores to reconstruct past concentrations of carbon dioxide, but this record only takes us back about a million years.</p><p>Beyond a million years, we don't have any direct measurements of the composition of ancient atmospheres, but we can use several methods to estimate past levels of carbon dioxide. One method uses the relationship between plant pores, known as stomata, that regulate gas exchange in and out of the plant. The density of these stomata is <a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/095968369200200109" target="_blank">related to atmospheric carbon dioxide</a>, and fossil plants are a good indicator of concentrations in the past.</p><p>Another technique is to examine sediment cores from the ocean floor. The sediments build up year after year as the bodies and shells of dead plankton and other organisms rain down on the seafloor. We can use isotopes (chemically identical atoms that differ only in atomic weight) of boron taken from the shells of the dead plankton to reconstruct changes in the acidity of seawater. From this we can work out the level of carbon dioxide in the ocean.</p><p>The data from four-million-year-old sediments suggest that <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2010PA002055" target="_blank">carbon dioxide was at 400ppm back then</a>.</p>
Sea Levels and Changes in Antarctica<p>During colder periods in Earth's history, ice caps and glaciers grow and sea levels drop. In the recent geological past, during the most recent ice age about 20,000 years ago, sea levels were at least <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/292/5517/679.abstract" target="_blank">120 meters lower</a> than they are today.</p><p><span></span>Sea-level changes are calculated from changes in isotopes of oxygen in the shells of marine organisms. For the Pliocene Era, <a href="https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2004PA001071" target="_blank">research</a> shows the sea-level change between cooler and warmer periods was around 30-40 meters and sea level was higher than today. Also during the Pliocene, we know the West Antarctic Ice Sheet was <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature07867" target="_blank">significantly smaller</a> and global average temperatures were about 3℃ warmer than today. Summer temperatures in high northern latitudes were up to 14℃ warmer.</p><p>This may seem like a lot but modern observations show strong <a href="https://journals.ametsoc.org/jcli/article/23/14/3888/32547" target="_blank">polar amplification</a> of warming: a 1℃ increase at the equator may raise temperatures at the poles by 6-7℃. It is one of the reasons why Arctic sea ice is disappearing.</p>
Impacts in New Zealand and Australia<p>In the Australian region, there was no Great Barrier Reef, but there may have been <a href="https://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF02537376.pdf" target="_blank">smaller reefs along the northeast coast of Australia</a>. For New Zealand, the partial melting of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is probably the most critical point.</p><p>One of the key features of New Zealand's current climate is that Antarctica is cut off from global circulation during the winter because of the big <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.3402/tellusa.v54i5.12161" target="_blank">temperature contrast</a> between Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. When it comes back into circulation in springtime, New Zealand gets strong storms. Stormier winters and significantly warmer summers were likely in the mid-Pliocene because of a weaker polar vortex and a warmer Antarctica.</p><p>It will take more than a few years or decades of carbon dioxide concentrations at 400ppm to trigger a significant shrinking of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. But recent studies show that <a href="http://nora.nerc.ac.uk/id/eprint/521027/" target="_blank">West Antarctica is already melting</a>.</p><p>Sea-level rise from a partial melting of West Antarctica could easily exceed a meter or more by 2100. In fact, if the whole of the West Antarctic melted it could <a href="http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.695.7239&rep=rep1&type=pdf" target="_blank">raise sea levels by about 3.5 meters</a>. Even smaller increases raise the risk of <a href="https://www.pce.parliament.nz/publications/preparing-new-zealand-for-rising-seas-certainty-and-uncertainty" target="_blank">flooding in low-lying cities</a> including Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.</p>
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By Jo Harper
Investment in U.S. offshore wind projects are set to hit $78 billion (€69 billion) this decade, in contrast with an estimated $82 billion for U.S. offshore oil and gasoline projects, Wood Mackenzie data shows. This would be a remarkable feat only four years after the first offshore wind plant — the 30 megawatt (MW) Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island — started operating in U.S. waters.
Corporates Shift<p>Helping to drive offshore growth, U.S. corporate buyers <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/cities-leading-the-transition-to-renewables/a-42850621" target="_blank">are increasingly relying on wind energy to power their businesses</a>. Walmart and AT&T are the two top corporate wind buyers, while 14 newcomers entered the wind market in 2019, including Estée Lauder and McDonald's.</p><p>"Oil and gas companies have jumped into the U.S. offshore wind market, where they can transfer expertise in offshore fossil fuel development to clean energy investments," says Max Cohen, principal analyst, Americas Power & Renewable research at Wood Mackenzie. Many international oil and gas companies have already recognized this huge potential and entered the US offshore wind market, including Orsted, Equinor and Shell.</p><p>"Given the recent tumult in oil prices, fossil fuel companies may more and more be looking to diversify their portfolios, particularly with assets that are contracted or offer returns uncorrelated with oil and gas," Cohen says. "Offshore wind is an area where they may have a comparative advantage, and they can then leverage the experience with that technology to make the leap to onshore wind, solar, and other renewable technologies," he says.</p>
East Coast leads the way<p>"There is enormous opportunity, especially off the East Coast, for wind. I am very bullish," said former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. "Market excitement is moving towards offshore wind. I haven't seen this kind of enthusiasm from industry since the Bakken shale boom," he said.</p><p>Offshore wind initiatives require excessive upfront spending: a 250 MW venture costs about $1 billion, based on International Energy Agency data, but as costs fall the tipping point after which costs fall faster gets nearer</p><p>"The opportunity has been created by Northeastern states seeing the large price declines for offshore wind in Europe," says Cohen. Onshore wind is historically the lowest cost renewable resource, but is at its most expensive in the Northeast, he adds. "But costs are falling slower than for other technologies," he says.</p>
Jobs and Coastal Revitalization<p>U.S. wind energy now supports 120,000 US jobs and 530 domestic factories. A study by the University of Delaware predicted that the supply chain needed to build offshore turbines to feed power to seven East Coast states by 2030 would generate nearly $70 billion in economic activity and at least 40,000 full-time jobs. An American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA's) March 2020 report estimated that developing 30,000 MW of offshore wind along the East Coast could support up to 83,000 jobs and $25 billion in annual economic output by 2030.</p><p>Having said that, not all of the jobs are American jobs. The offshore wind developers with commercial leases in the US are all foreign companies. There is growing interest from the shipbuilding sector in the Gulf of Mexico in partnering with offshore wind companies to provide services. As a result, some of the US oil trade associations have submitted comments supporting certain aspects of offshore wind. "However, it is unclear to what extent offshore wind developers plan to use US vessels and crew, and the existing projects did not incorporate US vessels or labor at all," Hawkins says.</p>
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The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed both the strengths and limitations of globalization. The crisis has made people aware of how industrialized food production can be, and just how far food can travel to get to the local supermarket. There are many benefits to this system, including low prices for consumers and larger, even global, markets for producers. But there are also costs — to the environment, workers, small farmers and to a region or individual nation's food security.
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By Joe Leech
The human body comprises around 60% water.
It's commonly recommended that you drink eight 8-ounce (237-mL) glasses of water per day (the 8×8 rule).
1. Helps Maximize Physical Performance<p>If you don't stay hydrated, your physical performance can suffer.</p><p>This is particularly important during intense exercise or high heat.</p><p>Dehydration can have <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-tell-if-youre-dehydrated" target="_blank">a noticeable effect</a> if you lose as little as 2% of your body's water content. However, it isn't uncommon for athletes to lose as much as 6–10% of their water weight via sweat.</p><p>This can lead to altered body temperature control, reduced motivation, and increased fatigue. It can also make exercise feel much more difficult, both physically and mentally.</p><p>Optimal hydration has been shown to prevent this from happening, and it may even reduce the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/oxidative-stress" target="_blank">oxidative stress</a> that occurs during high intensity exercise. This isn't surprising when you consider that muscle is about 80% water.<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19344695" target="_blank"><span></span></a></p><p>If you exercise intensely and tend to sweat, staying hydrated can help you perform at your absolute best.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Losing as little as 2% of your body's water content can significantly impair your physical performance.</p>
2. Significantly Affects Energy Levels and Brain Function<p>Your brain is strongly influenced by your hydration status.</p><p>Studies show that even mild dehydration, such as the loss of 1–3% of body weight, can impair many aspects of brain function.</p><p>In a study in young women, researchers found that fluid loss of 1.4% after exercise impaired both mood and concentration. It also increased the frequency of headaches.</p><p>Many members of this same research team conducted a similar study in young men. They found that fluid loss of 1.6% was detrimental to working memory and increased feelings of anxiety and fatigue.<a href="https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/british-journal-of-nutrition/article/mild-dehydration-impairs-cognitive-performance-and-mood-of-men/3388AB36B8DF73E844C9AD19271A75BF/core-reader" target="_blank"></a></p><p>A fluid loss of 1–3% equals about 1.5–4.5 pounds (0.5–2 kg) of body weight loss for a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kg). This can easily occur through normal daily activities, let alone during exercise or high heat.</p><p>Many other studies, with subjects ranging from <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/parenting/signs-of-dehydration-in-toddlers" target="_blank">children</a> to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/symptoms-of-dehydration-in-elderly" target="_blank">older adults</a>, have shown that mild dehydration can impair mood, memory, and brain performance.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Mild dehydration (fluid loss of 1–3%) can impair energy levels, impair mood, and lead to major reductions in memory and brain performance.</p>
3. May Help Prevent and Treat Headaches<p>Dehydration can trigger <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/dehydration-headache" target="_blank">headaches</a> and migraine in some individuals.<span></span></p><p>Research has shown that a headache is one of the most common symptoms of dehydration. For example, a study in 393 people found that 40% of the participants experienced a headache as a result of dehydration.</p><p>What's more, some studies have shown that drinking water can help relieve headaches in those who experience frequent headaches.</p><p>A study in 102 men found that drinking an additional 50.7 ounces (1.5 liters) of water per day resulted in significant improvements on the Migraine-Specific Quality of Life scale, a scoring system for <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/migraine-symptoms" target="_blank">migraine symptoms</a>.<a href="https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/29/4/370/492787" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Plus, 47% of the men who drank more water reported headache improvement, while only 25% of the men in the control group reported this effect.<a href="https://academic.oup.com/fampra/article/29/4/370/492787" target="_blank"></a></p><p>However, not all studies agree, and researchers have concluded that because of the lack of high quality studies, more research is needed to confirm how increasing hydration may help improve headache symptoms and decrease headache frequency.<a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26200171" target="_blank"></a></p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Drinking water may help reduce headaches and headache symptoms. However, more high quality research is needed to confirm this potential benefit.</p>
4. May Help Relieve Constipation<p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/constipation" target="_blank">Constipation</a> is a common problem that's characterized by infrequent bowel movements and difficulty passing stool.</p><p>Increasing fluid intake is often recommended as a part of the treatment protocol, and there's some evidence to back this up.</p><p>Low water consumption appears to be a risk factor for constipation in both younger and older individuals.</p><p>Increasing hydration may help decrease constipation.</p><p><a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/mineral-water-benefits" target="_blank">Mineral water</a> may be a particularly beneficial beverage for those with constipation.</p><p>Studies have shown that mineral water that's rich in magnesium and sodium improves bowel movement frequency and consistency in people with constipation.<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5334415" target="_blank"></a></p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Drinking plenty of water may help prevent and relieve constipation, especially in people who generally don't drink enough water.</p>
5. May Help Treat Kidney Stones<p>Urinary stones are painful clumps of mineral crystal that form in the urinary system.</p><p>The most common form is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/kidney-stones" target="_blank">kidney stones</a>, which form in the kidneys.</p><p>There's limited evidence that water intake can help prevent recurrence in people who have previously gotten kidney stones.<a href="https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004292.pub3/full" target="_blank"></a></p><p>Higher fluid intake increases the volume of urine passing through the kidneys. This dilutes the concentration of minerals, so they're less likely to crystallize and form clumps.</p><p>Water may also help prevent the initial formation of stones, but studies are required to confirm this.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Increased water intake appears to decrease the risk of kidney stone formation.</p>
6. Helps Prevent Hangovers<p>A hangover refers to the unpleasant symptoms experienced after drinking <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/alcohol-good-or-bad" target="_blank">alcohol</a>.</p><p>Alcohol is a diuretic, so it makes you lose more water than you take in. This can lead to dehydration.</p><p>Although dehydration isn't the main cause of hangovers, it can cause symptoms like thirst, fatigue, headache, and dry mouth.</p><p>Good ways <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-ways-to-prevent-a-hangover" target="_blank">to reduce hangovers</a> are to drink a glass of water between drinks and have at least one big glass of water before going to bed.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Hangovers are partly caused by dehydration, and drinking water can help reduce some of the main symptoms of hangovers.</p>
7. Can Aid Weight Loss<p>Drinking plenty of water can help you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-lose-weight-as-fast-as-possible/" target="_blank">lose weight</a>.</p><p>This is because water can increase satiety and boost your metabolic rate.</p><p>Some evidence suggests that increasing water intake can promote weight loss by slightly increasing your metabolism, which can increase the number of calories you burn on a daily basis.</p><p>A 2013 study in 50 young women with overweight demonstrated that drinking an additional 16.9 ounces (500 mL) of water 3 times per day before meals for 8 weeks led to significant reductions in body weight and body fat compared with their pre-study measurements.</p><p>The timing is important too. Drinking water half an hour before meals is the most effective. It can make you feel more full so that you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/35-ways-to-cut-calories" target="_blank">eat fewer calories</a>.</p><p>In one study, dieters who drank 16.9 ounces (0.5 liters) of water before meals lost 44% more weight over a period of 12 weeks than dieters who didn't drink water before meals.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Even mild dehydration can affect you mentally and physically.</p><p>Make sure that you <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-much-water-should-you-drink-per-day" target="_blank">get enough water each day</a>, whether your personal goal is 64 ounces (1.9 liters) or a different amount. It's one of the best things you can do for your overall health.</p>
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Since even moderate-intensity workouts offer a slew of benefits, walking is a good choice for people looking to stay healthy.
How to Rock Your Walk<p>Walking isn't just fun and healthy. It's accessible.</p><p>"Walking is cheap," says Dr. John Paul H. Rue, a sports medicine doctor at <a href="https://mdmercy.com/" target="_blank">Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore</a>. "You can do it anywhere at any time; [it] requires little to no special equipment and has many of the same cardio benefits as running or other more intense workouts."</p><p>Want to up your walking game? Try the tips below.</p>
Use Hand Weights<p>Cardio and strength training can go hand-in-hand when you add weights to your walk.</p><p>A <a href="https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2019/03000/Associations_of_Resistance_Exercise_with.14.aspx" target="_blank">2019 study</a> found that weight training is good for your heart, and <a href="https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(17)30167-2/abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows it reduces the risk of developing a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/nutrition-metabolism-disorders" target="_blank">metabolic disorder</a> by 17 percent. People with metabolic disorders have a higher chance of being diagnosed with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.</p><p>Rue suggests not carrying weights for your entire walk.</p><p>"Hand weights can give you an added level of energy burning, but you have to be careful with these because carrying [them] over a long period of time or while walking could actually lead to some overuse injuries," he says.</p>
Make It a Circuit<p>As another option, consider doing a circuit. First, put a pair of dumbbells on your lawn or somewhere in your home. Walk around the block once, then stop and do some bicep curls and tricep lifts before walking around the block again.</p><p>Rue recommends <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/running-with-weights" target="_blank">avoiding ankle weights</a> during cardio workouts, as they force you to use your quadriceps rather than hamstrings. They can also cause muscle imbalance, according to the <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/wearable-weights-how-they-can-help-or-hurt" target="_blank">Harvard Health Letter</a>.</p>
Find a Fitness Trail<p>Strength training isn't limited to weights. You can get stronger by <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/bodyweight-workout" target="_blank">simply using your body</a>.</p><p>Often found at parks, fitness trails are obstacle courses with equipment for pullups, pushups, rowing, and stretches to build upper and lower body strength.</p><p>Try searching "fitness trails near me" online, checking out your local parks and recreation website, or calling the municipal office to <a href="https://calisthenics-parks.com/" target="_blank">find one</a>.</p>
Recruit a Friend<p>People who workout together stay healthy together.</p><p><a href="https://bmcgeriatr.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12877-017-0584-3" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that older adults who exercised with a group improved or maintained their functional health and enjoyed their lives more.</p><p>Enlist the help of a walking buddy with a regimen you aspire to have. If you don't know anyone in your area, apps like <a href="https://www.strava.com/" target="_blank">Strava</a> have social networking features so you can get support from fellow exercisers.</p>
Try Meditation<p>According to the <a href="https://www.nccih.nih.gov/research/statistics/nhis/2017" target="_blank">2017 National Health Interview Survey</a>, published by the National Institutes of Health, meditation is on the rise, and for good reason.</p><p>Researchers <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29616846/" target="_blank">found</a> that mind-body relaxation practices can regulate inflammation, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/biological-rhythms" target="_blank">circadian rhythms</a>, and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/glucose" target="_blank">glucose</a> metabolism, as well as lower <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension" target="_blank">blood pressure</a>.</p><p>"Any form of exercise can be turned into a meditation of some type, either by the surroundings you are walking in, like a park or trail, or by blocking out the outside world with music on your headphones," Rue says.</p><p>You can also play a podcast or download an app like <a href="https://www.headspace.com/headspace-meditation-app" target="_blank">Headspace</a> that has a library of guided meditations to practice while you walk.</p>
Do Fartlek Walks<p>Typically used in running, fartlek intervals alternate periods of increased and decreased speed. These are <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/benefits-of-hiit" target="_blank">high-intensity interval training (HIIT)</a> workouts, which allow exercisers to accomplish more in less time.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0154075" target="_blank">One study</a> showed that 10-minute interval training improved <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/metabolic-syndrome" target="_blank">cardiometabolic</a> health, or lowered the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, just as well as working out at a continuous pace for 50 minutes.</p><p><a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111489" target="_blank">Research</a> also shows that HIIT workouts increase muscle <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fast-twitch-muscles" target="_blank">oxidative</a> capacity, or the ability to use oxygen. To do a fartlek walk, try walking at an increased pace for 3 minutes, slow down for 2 minutes, and repeat.</p>
Gradually Increase Pace<p>A faster walking pace is associated with a lower risk of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/copd" target="_blank">chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)</a> and respiratory diseases, according to a <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30303933/" target="_blank">2019 study</a>.</p><p>Still, it's best not to go from a stroll to an Olympic-worthy power walk in a day. Instead, increase your pace gradually to prevent injury.</p><p>"Start by walking at a brisk pace for about 10 minutes per day, 3 to 5 days per week," Rue says. "Once you've done this for a few weeks, increase your time by 5 to 10 minutes per day until you get to 30 minutes."</p>
Add Stairs<p>You've likely heard that taking the stairs instead of an elevator is a way to add more movement into your daily routine. It's also a way to step up your walking. Stair climbing has been shown to <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211335519301123?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">decrease the risk of mortality</a> and can easily add a bit more challenge to your walk.</p><p>If you don't have stairs in your home, you can often find them outside a local municipal building, train station, or at a high school stadium.</p>
Is Your Walk a True Cardio Workout?<p>Not all walks are equal. A walk that's too leisurely may not provide enough burn to qualify as cardio. To see if you're getting a good workout, try to <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-check-heart-rate" target="_blank">measure your heart rate</a> using a monitor.</p><p>"A target goal for a good walking workout heart rate is about 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate," Rue says, adding that maximum heart rate is <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/fat-burning-heart-rate" target="_blank">typically calculated</a> by 220 beats per minute minus your age.</p><p>You can also monitor how easily you can carry on a conversation while you walk to gauge your heart rate.</p><p>"If you can walk and carry on a normal conversation, that's probably a lower intensity walk," says Rue. "If you are slightly breathless but can still have a conversation, that's probably a moderate workout. If you are out of breath and can't talk normally, that's a vigorous workout."</p>
Takeaway<p>By shaking up your routine, you can add excitement to your workout and reap even more rewards than a basic walk provides. Increasing the pace and intensity of a workout will make it more effective.</p><p>Simply pick your favorite variation to add some spice to your next walk.</p>
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