Science suggests walking barefoot on ground improves your health
It is not a secret that spending time in nature is good for you. For years, researchers have been detailing how people who live near green spaces — parks, greenbelts, tree-lined streets, rural landscapes — have better physical and mental health, and practices such as Japanese forest bathing and Nordic “hygge,” which has a strong outdoorsy component, are being embraced here in the United States. Could grounding be next?
A colleague recently recommended a mutual patient experiment with walking barefoot in the grass for a short time each day. A few weeks later, an article gave a name to that practice: “grounding.” The idea behind grounding, also called “earthing,” is that humans evolved in direct contact with the Earth’s subtle electric charge, but have lost that sustained connection thanks to inventions such as buildings, furniture and shoes with insulated synthetic soles.
Advocates of grounding say this disconnect might be contributing to the chronic diseases that are particularly prevalent in industrialized societies. There is some science behind this. Research has shown barefoot contact with the earth can produce nearly instant changes in a variety of physiological measures, helping improve sleep, reduce pain, decrease muscle tension and lower stress.
There are many reasons connecting with nature is good for mind and body, and electricity might be one of them. Everything, including humans, is made up of atoms. These microscopic particles contain equal numbers of negatively charged electrons, which come in pairs, and positively charged protons, so an atom is neutral, unless it loses an electron. When an atom has an unpaired electron, it becomes a “free radical” capable of damaging cells and contributing to chronic inflammation, cancer and other diseases.
The Earth’s surface has a negative charge and is constantly generating electrons that could neutralize free radicals, acting as antioxidants.
Research also suggests contact with the Earth’s surface can help regulate the autonomic nervous system and keep circadian rhythms — which regulate body temperature, hormone secretion and blood pressure, among other things — synchronized with the day/night cycle.
Desynchronization of our internal clocks has been linked to a number of health problems. The key may be the impact on the vagus nerve, the largest nerve of the autonomic nervous system. Weak vagal tone is associated with chronic inflammation. Inflammation, in turn, is associated with chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Research continues at several universities, but while many integrative and mainstream health-care practitioners use grounding as one treatment tool, it is far from widespread.
For more information, visit the Earthing Institute website: www.earthing institute.net/.
“Grounding,” or “earthing,” might help improve or maintain physical and mental health, according to research. Benefits may include better sleep, pain reduction and lower stress levels.