Friday 14 December 2018

Walking barefoot has put a real spring back in my step

'Grounding' is a scientifically researched practice with a number of remarkable health advantages, such as improving sleep

HAPPY FEET — WALKING BACK TO HAPPINESS: Victoria Mary Clarke braves the cold Irish weather and strolls barefoot in scenic Herbert Park, Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys
HAPPY FEET — WALKING BACK TO HAPPINESS: Victoria Mary Clarke braves the cold Irish weather and strolls barefoot in scenic Herbert Park, Dublin. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Victoria Mary Clarke

I am not a person who likes the cold. Far from it. People laugh openly when I put on ski pants in November just to walk to the shops and if it rains I always have plastic trousers. So the idea of barefoot walking did not immediately appeal to me, especially when it is freezing outside. But as with anything in life, when the benefits outweigh the pain, you will do pretty much anything.

I have a yoga teacher friend called Louise Horgan who is very hot, and I kind of want to look like her, so when she started banging on about barefoot 'grounding' I was curious. And I went on a barefoot herb foraging trip in Bavaria, but that was in warm weather, and it is starting to get pretty cold here in Ireland.

The idea really took hold when I interviewed the health guru Patrick Holford for this newspaper and I noticed how ridiculously energetic and enthusiastic he seemed. Anything legal that gives me energy I am interested in. And when I heard that a schoolteacher called Eamonn Keaveney from Mayo had set a new Guinness World Record by walking 2000km barefoot around Ireland to raise money for Pieta House, I figured I can surely do 10 minutes a day.

The barefoot thing is not new, and as with all crazes many celebrities have already jumped on it. According to the Boston Globe, Justin Bieber was seen 'walking with naked feet on city crosswalks, in the Boston Public Garden, and even entering the Four Seasons hotel.'

Gigi Hadid was photographed walking to a business meeting in LA barefoot and Ryan Gosling was spotted walking barefoot on a city street in a pair of shorts while carrying his hiking boots. In fact, if you search for 'celebrities barefoot' you find endless pictures of famous feet naked, in all kinds of situations.

Not everything that celebrities do is for you. But the benefits of barefoot walking are quite astonishing, if all the stuff I am reading is true.

Most of us are surrounded by gadgets that emit electro-magnetic energy, phones, computers, televisions and such like, and many of us are feeling stressed, wired, anxious, restless, and exhausted, but also unable to sleep soundly as a result.

The gadgets all emit positive ions. There has been an enormous amount of medical research into the effects of both positive and negative ions, mostly originating in Japan.

Noboru Horiguchi is the founder of the National Society of Minus-Ion Therapeutic Medicine, and has been studying negative ions for more than 35 years.

"When too many positive ions accumulate, they increase the amount of activated oxygen in the body," says Horiguchi. "And activated oxygen is believed to be a cause of cancer and other serious sicknesses.

"The standard pH level of a human body is 7.4, which is slightly alkaline.

"But this balance is destroyed when too many positive ions go into your body, because they cause oxidation, which raises the acid level."

According to Horiguchi, and other scientific sources, positive ions are found in profusion in polluted air, and electromagnetic waves.

The earth itself is negatively charged, and water is conductive to electricity.

So if you stand on wet grass in your bare feet, you allow the positively charged ions to 'ground', as though you had earthed an electronic gadget. If you do it for five minutes every morning and evening, you can consistently 'earth' your energy, thereby reducing free radical damage and boosting your immune system.

Other health benefits are said to include better sleep. All of the light rays coming from our electronic gadgets and phones are causing our sleep patterns to be disturbed, because the body thinks it is always daytime, and we are always on high alert, and so the grounding takes care of that problem, too.

In an article in the US National Library of Medicine's Journal of Environmental and Public Health, it says that 'emerging scientific research has revealed a surprisingly positive and overlooked environmental factor on health: direct physical contact with the vast supply of electrons on the surface of the Earth.

Reconnection with the Earth's electrons has been found to promote intriguing physiological changes and subjective reports of well- being.

Earthing (or grounding) refers to the discovery of benefits - including better sleep and reduced pain - from walking barefoot outside.

They went on to do specific research into patients with serious sleep disturbances, and reported significant changes after 'grounding' them while they slept.

'Results indicate that grounding the human body to earth ("earthing") during sleep reduces night-time levels of cortisol and resynchronizes cortisol hormone secretion more in alignment with the natural 24-hour circadian rhythm profile.

'Changes were most apparent in females. Furthermore, subjective reporting indicates that grounding the human body to earth during sleep improves sleep and reduces pain and stress,' it says.

I was more than a little bit concerned about catching a cold, flu or pneumonia. On my first day of walking on the wet grass, I filmed myself on Facebook and got lots of comments warning me that I would 'catch my death.' So I generally have a hot bath straight after the walk.

I was also a bit curious about what the neighbours would think of me walking around barefoot in the rain, and even Shane wondered about this.

But so far nobody has commented or even noticed, not even the builders next door.

It may be too early to say for sure, but so far I know that I am sleeping more soundly and without waking up in the night.

And I am a lot less distracted, and more chilled. And in truth, so far I find that I actually look forward to the barefoot strolls, they put a spring in my step.

Sunday Independent

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