As the cold begins to give way to the warmth of spring, there is nothing I enjoy more than walking barefoot on the beach, in the park or my backyard.  The act of walking barefoot in nature is known as earthing.  Like myself, many people report amazing benefits, while critics point out the lack of solid scientific studies supporting this practice.  Earthing (also called grounding) can be a controversial topic. What say you?  Are you part of #teamgrounding or #teamnogrounding.

From a scientific perspective, the idea is that the earth has a mild negative charge to it. Over time, especially in modern life, our bodies build up a positive charge. Direct contact with the earth can even out this positive charge and return the body to a neutral state.  

During the normal processes of metabolism; catabolism which is muscle breakdown and anabolism which is muscle building, the body generate free radicals.  Free radicals are involved in the process known as inflammation, which is part of the healing process. However, low-grade inflammation throughout the body may lead to pain and other problems in the muscles and joints, and is also believed to be a key driving factor in many chronic diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. In short, we want free radicals, but not too many.

Free radicals lack sparks of energy known as ‘electrons’. However, by eating foods that have vitamins A, C and E, and plant substances known as ‘polyphenols’ (found in, among other things, tea, coffee, cocoa and apples) we can combat free radicals. However, substances we eat and drink are not the only way to get electrons into the body: earthing does this too. If the body has a positive charge on it, earthing allows electrons to flow into the body where, in theory, they can neutralize overblown free radical and inflammatory damage.

In addition, Japanese researchers have found that when we spend time outdoor grounding and breathe in organic compounds called phytoncides, which are released by trees for protection against insects, our natural killer cells increase in number and activity. Natural killer cells are white blood cells that help identify and destroy cells infected with tumors or viruses.

Finally, as it pertains to us fitness enthusiast grounding was shown to result in faster recovery and/or less pronounced markers of muscle damage and inflammation. Therefore, spending time grounding might not only be enjoyable but might be seen as a simple methodology to enhance acute and long-term recovery after intensive exercises.

Front Physiol. 2019; 10: 35. Published online 2019 Jan 28. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00035