Krista Stevens: Everything you need to know about water retention and water weight

Water retention, also known as edema, is a common condition characterized by an abnormal buildup of fluid in the body’s tissues.

It can lead to temporary weight gain, discomfort and bloating.

While it is often harmless, persistent water retention can be an indicator of underlying health issues.

In this column, we will explore the causes of water retention, practical ways to control water weight, and the remarkable benefits of exercise in managing this condition.

Krista's previous three columns:

Get up and go: Here are several exercise options to get you off the couch and on your feet

Take a test: How do you measure your fitness progress? Test days help you do that.

Can I still eat out while on a diet? Yes, but follow these tips to succeed

Krista Stevens, Health columnist
Krista Stevens, Health columnist

Understanding water retention

Water retention occurs when excess fluid builds up in the body’s tissues. This can happen due to various factors, including hormonal changes, dietary choices, certain medications and underlying health conditions such as kidney or heart problems.

High sodium intake is a common culprit, as it encourages the body to retain water.

Additionally, imbalances in electrolytes, inadequate hydration and prolonged periods of inactivity can contribute to water retention.

Controlling water weight

While water weight gain is often temporary and resolves on its own, individuals looking to manage their water retention levels can adopt certain lifestyle changes. Here are some effective strategies:

  1. Balanced sodium intake. Reducing sodium consumption is crucial, because excessive amounts of sodium can cause the body to retain water. Focus on consuming whole foods, fresh fruits, vegetables and lean proteins while minimizing processed and packaged foods.

  2. Stay hydrated. Counterintuitively, drinking more water can actually help flush out excess fluids and reduce water retention. Aim for at least eight glasses of water per day and limit the consumption of beverages such as coffee, soda and alcohol, as they can dehydrate the body.

  3. Monitor electrolyte levels. Electrolytes play a vital role in regulating fluid balance in the body. Ensure an adequate intake of potassium, magnesium and calcium through foods like bananas, spinach, avocados and yogurt.

  4. Exercise regularly. Physical activity stimulates circulation, aiding in fluid movement and preventing fluid accumulation in the tissues. Engage in aerobic exercises to promote overall health and fluid balance.

  5. Elevate legs. If water retention primarily affects the legs and feet, elevating them above heart level for short periods of time can help reduce swelling and promote fluid drainage.

Benefits of exercise in water weight management

Regular exercise plays a vital role in managing water retention and overall well-being. Here’s how physical activity can positively impact water weight.

  1. Enhanced circulation. Exercise increases blood flow, facilitating the removal of excess fluid from the tissues. It also helps reduce inflammation, which can contribute to water retention.

  2. Lymphatic system simulation. The Lymphatic system is responsible for removing excess waste and excess fluid. It relies on muscular contractions to function optimally. Exercise promotes these contractions, aiding in lymphatic drainage and reducing water retention.

  3. Weight loss and fat reduction: Engaging in regular exercise promotes weight loss and fat reduction, which can indirectly alleviate water retention. As body fat decreases, the body’s ability to regulate fluid balance improves.

  4. Sweat and toxin release: Sweating during exercise helps eliminate toxins from the body, reducing the burden on organs responsible for fluid regulation. This can aid in maintaining a healthy fluid balance and reducing water weight.

Overall, water retention can be an uncomfortable condition, but with the right lifestyle modifications, it can be managed effectively. By adopting strategies to control water weight, including balanced sodium intake, staying hydrated, monitoring electrolyte levels and engaging in regular exercise, individuals can promote fluid balance and overall well-being.

Krista Stevens in a graduate of the University of Florida. To find out more, see:



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This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Edema, or water retention, is a buildup of fluid in the body's tissues