Get Grounded: The Benefits of Barefoot Contact with the Earth
Our bodies crave the outdoors.
There's nothing quite like getting out -- away from it all. The loud sounds of modern living fade to the quiet harmony of nature (and the occasional howl of a squatch); it's peaceful right? That's why we go, why we escape -- in a mad attempt to get back to our roots, where we're supposed to be, where we belong.
What if I told you that awesome effect nature has on your body and state of mind when you're in the mountains, on the shore, surrounded by trees, or anywhere else you like to disappear, could be extended even further with one simple act? It'd be pretty great, right? Once you get to a stopping point on your next adventure, pull off those sweaty hiking shoes for awhile and give your feet a dose of ground -- barefoot contact with the earth. This little diddy is called grounding, or earthing, and it turns out, is beneficial and essential to the human species. I know, it sounds a little hippyish, but think about it. When was the last time you connected directly with the earth? With all that concrete and grime, shoes are kind of a necessity.
It doesn't matter if your kicks are super fly, super minimalist or super fly and super minimalist, the rubber soles create a barrier between your foot and the advantageous energy of the ground. The reason the ground is so valuable is because it's covered with a ton of electrons and these electrons can do a lot for our health and ailments. Every physiological process in our body has an electrical element to it, these electrons that Earth is doling out may have the potential to get these electrical aspects back in sync.
For example, electrons transmitted to the body via your feet can work in a fashion similar to antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals and reducing acute and chronic inflammation. This concept was taken one step further in a study that looked at delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), that's the pain you get in your quads after hiking/running downhill when you're not used to it. Researchers found that the subjects who were grounded to the earth after inducing DOMS experienced an altered immune system response, less pain and quicker recovery than those who went ungrounded. Did I mention this is the first intervention ever used that actually improved recovery from DOMS? That's pretty significant.
I realize not everyone experiences muscle soreness, but don't worry, grounding helps with a lot of other, more common, complaints. Stress, sleep problems, chronic pain -- I got you covered. Grounding has been shown to improve quality and quantity of sleep, reduce pain and stress and reduce blood viscosity (a major factor in cardiovascular disease and events). Upon setting bare foot to ground, researchers have also observed immediate normalization of cortisol (stress hormone) levels, reduced muscle tension and reduced heart rate.
Maybe you find this farfetched or maybe you buy into it. Whichever camp you find yourself in, what would it hurt to spend a little intimate time in nature -- grounding yourself to this big beautiful planet for a few minutes a day. Maybe you'll experience better health or maybe the dirt will just feel really great between your toes. Either way, it's a win-win.
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.