I’ve been seeing a lot of claims about the science of “earthing,” which is pretty much what it sounds like: walking barefoot to have direct contact with the earth. Proponents say that in our urban jungle modern city lives, we no longer have direct physical contact with the earth and are therefore losing out on health benefits of exchanging electrons with the earth’s surface. While the concept of earthing may sound woo-woo, I know how much better I feel after a barefoot run on the beach, so I decided to look into the research and studies and see what earthing’s all about.
First off, it’s no secret that our modern lives are drastically different from what we as humans are designed to do: move around, rise and sleep with the light cycle of the sun, and hunt and gather our food. Of course we’ve evolved to adapt to modern life, but artificial light sources, staying up too late, sitting all day, breathing pollution, and consuming toxic foods and pesticides have really taken a toll on our collective health. Chronic illness, immune disorders, and inflammatory diseases have increased dramatically, and researchers have cited environmental factors as a main cause.
Getting outside is healthy: sunshine boosts your serotonin and vitamin D levels, improving mood and helping to prevent disease. And being barefoot feels good! Feeling good is healthy. Taking off your shoes and walking barefoot on lush grass? Ahhhhhhh. Digging your toes in the sand at the beach? Niiiiiiccccce. Contact with rugs, asphalt, floors, and plastics have removed our contact with earth and the positive electrons we receive from barefoot contact with the ground. But what do the studies say?
Earthing: For Hippies Only or Legitimate Healing Practice?
This collection of studies set out to see if earthing could improve a number of conditions from insomnia to stress and pain. The studies indeed showed that contact with the Earth—whether being outside barefoot or indoors connected to grounded conductive systems—may be a simple, natural, and yet profoundly effective environmental strategy against chronic stress, inflammation, pain, poor sleep, hypercoagulable blood, and many common health disorders, including cardiovascular disease.
These images show that earthing has a positive effect on cardiovascular health– it thins your blood!
Turns out there are quite a few studies showing that earthing really does have legitimate health benefits.
According to cardiologist Dr Stephen Sinatra, earthing has great promise for improving arrhythmias, blood pressure, blood viscosity and flow, and energy production of heart cells.
- better immune function: Your immune system functions optimally when your body has an adequate supply of electrons, which are easily and naturally obtained by barefoot contact with the Earth.
- Research indicates that electrons from the Earth have antioxidant effects that can protect your body from inflammation
- When you are in direct contact with the ground (walking, sitting, or laying down on the earth’s surface) the earth’s electrons are conducted to your body, bringing it to the same electrical potential as the earth. Living in direct contact with the earth grounds your body, inducing favorable physiological and electrophysiological changes that promote optimum health.
- Improvement in blood viscosity (more coagulable blood) & blood pressure
- Better sleep, normalizing circadian rhythms
- Reduced stress, better cortisol balance
- Reduced inflammation
- It’s relaxing!
How to Practice Earthing
This, folks, is pretty easy and inexpensive– simply get outside and walk around barefoot! Your backyard, a nearby park, the beach–anywhere your feet have direct contact with grass, sand, or earth. I like to make it a mindful practice and give some intention to it– feel the sensation of the grass and sand, do some walking meditation. Barefoot running has become a thing too, and I love a barefoot run on the beach.
You can also use an earthing mat indoors. You plug it in and place your bare feet on it, and it conducts the same electrons you’d get from the earth. You can use an earthing mat in your workspace, under your computer, and even in your bed. An earthing mat in the bedroom in your bed or next to the bed (where your feet hit the floor in the morning) is a great way to offset EMFs that can disrupt sleep.
There are earthing kits you can buy with a sheet for your bed and a mat for the ground or workstation. You can even buy earthing shoes to help you get grounded! I think these kits would be great for city dwellers who can’t get to the park frequently enough. But I still say get outside for at least 15 minutes a day, and sink your toes into the sand and the earth for good health!
Earthing is certainly backed by legitimate research that claims it can improve health and wellness. Overall, here is my takeaway: Humans are designed to exist with the light cycles of the sun, to sleep 8-10 hours nightly, to get outside and play, and to connect with nature. Make time for this. Your health depends on it.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.