Grounding: Does Touching Earth Provide Health Benefits or Is It Pseudoscience?

(U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class China M. Shock)

Getting outside has both physical and mental benefits for our health. Some call it "grounding" or "earthing," while others refer to it as simply "touching grass." No matter what you call it, just thinking about, say, sitting in the sun on a grassy field on a nice spring day has its physical benefits. Whether it is taking relaxing breaths in nature or your body's vitamin D response from the sunlight, you can lower your blood pressure, support bone health and improve mental health in just minutes a day. 

Is the grounding effect in play when you go outside and stand in grass with bare feet? Or do the benefits simply stem from being away from the office and decompressing in nature? While trying to be open-minded, trying "grounding" myself and reviewing scientific studies on the subject, I am not sold.

But if it makes you feel better, do it. If you are curious, try it.

What Is "Grounding"?

One of the favorable "studies" suggests that grounding is one of the core components of alternative or preventative medicine, which includes nutrition, exercise, stress mitigation techniques and social interactions. It means reconnecting the human body to Earth's natural electric charge by using grounding pads or walking barefoot on grass, soil or sand.

The discussions around grounding (or earthing) are as polarizing as today's political spectrum. Groups such as the Earthing Institute claim that by walking barefoot on grass or using special grounding pads, you can derive the following health benefits, among others:

  • Reduced inflammation
  • Less pain
  • Better sleep
  • Improved blood flow
  • Less stress
  • Reduced muscle soreness, tension and headaches
  • Faster wound and injury healing

If this sounds like snake oil or hocus-pocus, welcome to the debate. If you find grounding to be helpful in your health and wellness, that is great. Grounding yourself is a real activity. Before working with explosives, blasting caps and even computer systems, specialists will "ground" themselves by touching the Earth in case of a static charge in our body. Grounding is "grounded" in objective and useful measures. 

However, many studies also include subjective scores, which could lead skeptics to claim a placebo effect or compare the subjective results to other benefits of being in nature and water, feeling the warmth of the sun or being away from your work and other stressful environments. If anyone makes these claims above and tries to sell you something, you are likely to be scammed. But if it is free, try it and see how you feel.

We do many things that make us "feel better," and quite frankly, that is why we do them. From exercise, stretching, foam rolling, box breathing, meditating, massage, walking in the morning sun to using CBD oil, all have similar claims to the health and wellness benefits of grounding. But I am willing to try it. I have been spending about 20 minutes a day after a workout or evening walk, barefoot in my yard or by the local river, just sitting, stretching and relaxing. Is it working? I don't know, but I feel more relaxed when I do that 20-minute ritual than when I skip it. I have my annual checkup in a few months, so maybe there will be some improved health markers in my blood screening.

As with any suggested method of health and wellness, try it. See whether it works for you. If it does, great. Just remember to wash your feet if it doesn't, keep your shoes on and do what works. I will be honest: Getting out in nature, whether I am barefoot or not, is always my favorite go-to activity for my mental health.

Related Studies and Articles on Grounding

There are articles published on PubMed discussing the benefits of grounding, but if you investigate the studies, they are largely subjective versus objective points being graded. You can decide for yourself. There are discussions on both sides below:

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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