Running on the beach, walking on a dirt path, standing on a patch of dewy grass in bare feet... getting out of your shoes and flexing your toes not only feels liberating, but it may also be good for your health. Or so the followers of the “grounding”—or “earthing”—trend believe.
What’s the premise? One of the movement’s staunchest proponents, Joseph Mercola, an osteopath and web entrepreneur, explains that the earth is rich in electrons from sunlight and lightening strikes. These electrons are absorbed through the skin and—in about eighty minutes—into the bloodstream. There, they help neutralize free radicals floating around in the body. The newly absorbed electrons supposedly also improve energy between red blood cells, thinning the blood and reducing inflammation throughout the body—the cause of many ailments, including high blood pressure, says Stephen Sinatra, MD, cardiologist and founder of the New England Heart Center. He says you’ll feel less pain in the joints, sleep better, have more energy overall.
All it takes to absorb the surge of antioxidants is ten to twenty minutes a day with some part of your body in direct contact with the ground, according to Laura Koniver, MD, author of the Earthing Idea Book. Sand, grass, or dirt are ideal—the wetter the better, since water is a great conductor and salt water best of all. Concrete and untreated tile will, to a lesser degree, also ground you. Even leather soles will absorb electrons, says Koniver, but not rubber—which means anyone who’s walking around in sneakers (most of us, much of the time) is insulated from the earth’s energy. As Koniver, says, we should be getting out of our shoes and using the earth as a recharging energy pack. “Stock up while it’s nice outside,” she says. “Take a laptop outdoors. Lay on the earth for a little bit each day, for a week straight and see how you feel. Even walking to the mailbox across the grass barefoot will help!”
What if you live in a city or don’t want to walk barefoot in the winter? There are indoor grounding products—including foot and desktop pads, even sheets (from $50 to $30)--that plug into an outlet and connect you to a rejuvenating charge while you work or sleep. (Browse devices at www.earthing.com and www.radiantlifecatalog.com). The appeal of the apparatus, and the notion of grounding, is reaching a fan base outside the alternative-medicine crowd. “Elite athletes are now using these earthing tools,” says Michelle Pawson, a functional movement expert and master Pilates instructor. It’s true: Canadian team members of the Tour de France give convincing testimonials about how regular use of grounding technology have vastly improved performance and recovery during training and races.
Of course, to date there no large-scale studies, no hard science, to back up grounding’s heath claims. The skeptics say, who doesn’t feel better after a walk on the beach or an hour lying on a lawn looking up the sky? Then again getting in touch with the earth can’t hurt—and it just might help.