For most of human history, we have spent a great deal of time close to nature. Our hunter-gatherer forebears spent much of their time walking – sometimes with primitive shoes or sandals, and other times barefoot, journeying across continents in search of food or other discoveries.
This doesn’t happen much anymore. But perhaps it should! Studies suggest that walking barefoot outdoors actually has some potentially remarkable health benefits.
The practice of walking around barefoot in the outdoors, for health purposes, is known as “earthing” or “grounding.” Believe it or not, these are the terms used in the scientific literature. Researchers have identified potential health effects as diverse as improved sleep, reduced inflammation, reduced incidence of cellular mutations, and other desirable results. Here’s why grounding is said to work this way.
The Reason Grounding and Earthing Work
In a study titled, “Earthing (Grounding) the Human Body Reduces Blood Viscosity,” the authors state that “connecting the human body to the Earth normalizes the daily cortisol rhythm and improves sleep. A variety of other benefits were reported, including reductions in pain and inflammation. […] the surface of the Earth possesses a limitless and continuously renewed supply of free or mobile electrons as a consequence of a global atmospheric electron circuit. […] A direct earth connection enables both diurnal electrical rhythms and free electrons to flow from the Earth to the body.”
Essentially, this study suggests that the electrons released by the Earth help eliminate free radicals from the body. Free radicals are atoms with unpaired electrons that look to steal electrons from healthy cells in the body. Once stolen, the cell begins to break down, leading to various potential problems. Antioxidants normally play a role in this, as they contain additional free electrons that they can donate to cells. However, according to the study above, it can also be achieved through a barefoot walk through the park.
Another study describes how the electrical charge that flows through the Earth affects red blood cells in the body. In the study, subjects were put in a room with conductive pads on their feet. Cables were taken from these pads, down through the floor, and into the Earth. Some of the wires were not connected, so no patient knew whether or not they were “grounded.” After a time, each subject had their blood tested.
Surprisingly, the researchers found that the subjects that had been “grounded” had red blood cells that were different from the “ungrounded” subjects. The former group had red blood cells that were less clumped than the latter group, thus producing blood that was less viscous. It is thought that this result could have a positive impact on cardiovascular health, with the potential result of reducing heart attack and stroke incidence.
What You Can Do About It
Now that we understand why grounding works, are there any risks associated with it? For the most part, no. Though, you will want to make sure that you don’t walk barefoot on any grass that could contain bees, snakes, animal waste, or dangerous litter like glass. We recommend that you only try this in short grass or on land with which you are familiar.
As for how to make grounding work for you, you’ll have to find an excuse to spend time outside. Maybe that means walking or running along familiar grassy trails. Maybe that means gardening with your toes in the dirt. Maybe that means lying under a tree in the spring, enjoying your favorite new book. Studies have tested grounding in intervals of 30 to 120 minutes. The ideal frequency for best results is unknown.
However, you get your outdoor exercise and make sure you are getting the right kind of nutrition to support your body’s beneficial changes. If you aren’t accustomed to outdoor exercise, we recommend a high-quality protein from a natural source to help your body build new muscle and keep you energized.
We specifically recommend SP Complete Powder Dairy Free from Standard Process; Protein Superfood from Amazing Grass; and PurePea Protein from Designs For Health. Browse each of these products and see which ones support your lifestyle! For outdoor fitness, however you get it, though, just try it while giving your toes some breathing room.