Proper water intake is an important part of staying healthy. As the summer heat rises, so does the importance of getting enough fluids.

For starters, water makes up about 60 percent of our body weight and plays a part in the proper functioning of every cell, tissue and organ in your body.

The health benefits of water are numerous; among other things, proper water consumption aids in:

  • Transporting oxygen and nutrients to your cells
  • Aiding digestion and maintaining a healthy metabolism
  • Cushioning joints
  • Protecting organs and stabilizing your heartbeat
  • Regulating body temperature and blood pressure

The importance of proper hydration is widely understood–most of us know we should be drinking more water than we currently are–but how much should we really be drinking each day?

A rule of thumb that many people follow is the 8 x 8 rule or eight 8-ounce glasses per day. This is an easy number to remember, and it’s not a bad baseline, but it doesn’t account for other factors involved in hydration, such as exercise, climate, overall health and diet.

Any form of activity that causes you to sweat will result in fluid loss, which will need to be replaced with additional water intake. It is important to drink water not only during your workout but also before and after you sweat it out.

Climate is also a factor to consider when hydrating. In hot or humid weather, you’re likely to sweat more, and in turn, you’ll require additional fluid intake. High altitudes can also lead to quick dehydration.

Overall health plays a role in your required water intake as well. Vomiting, diarrhea and fevers all result in fluid loss, which requires replenishment through additional fluid intake.

One thing overlooked by the 8 x 8 rule is that other beverages and foods contribute to your total hydration. All foods–especially raw fruits and vegetables–contain some water, and the average North American gets around 20 percent of their daily water intake through food, according to a report from the National Academies of Science.

Another popular myth is that beverages containing caffeine or alcohol are dehydrating because they increase the production of urine. While plain water is a healthier choice, the water content in caffeinated and alcoholic beverages still contributes to a net positive, according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch. In fact, other non-alcoholic drinks like juice, pop and milk all contribute to your hydration.

Ultimately, the 8 x 8 rule is a good starting point, but other factors must be considered. Aim to drink water consistently throughout the day, not just when you’re thirsty, and keep an eye out for the signs of dehydration. Hunger, headaches, fatigued or cramped muscles, weakness, dry mouth or skin, smelly breath or urine that is dark in colour can all be signs you need more water.