How Barefoot Walking Can Transform Your Health

How often do you see people walking barefoot these days? In places of worship you may say. If you saw someone walking barefoot, you may even think he is an eccentric! True that ! But, allow me to take you on the ‘barefoot in the park’ track, unravelling its numerous benefits. Kick off your footwear for a while and allow your feet to feel the ground.

My experiment with walking barefoot started randomly on an impulse. While I sat reading a book with my home footwear on, I felt unusually warm in the soles of my feet. Still immersed in my book, I slipped my feet instinctively out of the slip-ons and sat with my feet bare, for the rest of my reading. A lovely feeling of coolness coursed through my feet and into the rest of me. I felt refreshed; I put the book down and sat wondering where the goodness of it all came from. The sensation triggered a something in me and I walked out barefoot in my compound for a stroll to test it out. Into my 100th step, I sensed that it was that connectivity to the earth that had rejuvenated me. I am not exaggerating. Don’t take my word, try it out yourself. So here is more on the advantages of walking barefoot, a result of my research and experience. It has now become a part of my ‘keep-healthy’ habits.

Born barefoot, we leave this earth barefoot too (except in some faiths), but most of what we experience between the two destined points, we cover our feet up with protective footwear. To understand how important being barefoot is, lets travel back in time to our infant days when our first tottering steps felt the ground. Isnt that how we all learnt to get a grip on our feet and balance ourselves? The muscles of our feet oriented themselves when we first commanded them to hold us up. But in a few months our parents got us ‘soft baby footwear’ and being barefoot became a rarity.

Have you ever wondered why pains and aches were almost non-existent in our childhood? Because we played barefoot and walked barefoot too sometimes. As we grew into our teens and adolescence, we donned more footwear and walked less barefoot, thereby inhibiting the senses in our feet and allowing the tiny muscles to weaken.

Pic Courtesy : Ojai Healing Movement Sanctuary

Amy Mathews, a movement analyst has this to say, “Shoes can make the feet passive and unconscious because they do all the work for us.” The arches of our feet are crucial to providing support and balance to our bodies. The more we allow our feet muscles to weaken, more the number of pains and aches in our legs and lower back. Barefoot training can help us keep our feet muscles conditioned, and in some cases even reverse some amount of damage done.

Get In Touch With Your Feet : Reconnect with the various muscles and senses in your feet and you may ward off future injuries. There are 26 joints that make up our toes and feet and along with them are the supporting muscles, ligaments and tendons. Lets learn to pay attention to them and see how we feel. Flex the feet, curl them up, wiggle the toes, stand on toes and heels alternatively (take support if you need), touch and tap the tops and bottoms of your toes. Wake up their sensory awareness and make them agile.

Being Earthed : Another fascinating dimension to barefoot walking is the ‘earthing’. Scientific research and early studies have shown several health benefits of kicking off shoes and treading the ground barefoot. We have a connection with the Earth and its magnetic field. Earth’s electrons have their own charge, the negative ions. When we come in direct contact with earth, our bodies gain from it tremendously, reducing inflammation, increasing antioxidants and improving sleep. Earthing research and observations describe Earth as a ‘global treatment table’. A great book to read to learn more about this is  Earthing by  Clinton Ober.

We live in a strange yet miraculous world. For a change, we are going to be asking for something negative !! Before your eyebrows shoot up, let me tell you that we are talking about positive and negative ions. Modern life and technology have made our lives easier through gadgets and electronics, yet there is a price attached to it and if that price involves our health, we need to sit up and take notice.

Ions affect our health. Positive ions are not a blessing, negative ions are. If you wish to know more about ions, click here

There is a proliferation of positive ions in cities or any place where electronics and electro-magnetic frequencies are used. We are surrounded by smart phones, laptops, televisions, microwaves and cell phone towers, which emit abundant pro-inflammatory positive ions. These flood our bodies, thereby giving birth to several inflammation issues. Barefoot walking allows us to absorb Earth’s negative ions which in turn balances the positive and negative charges within us. Many health issues get sorted out nature’s way thereby (4).

‘Earthing’ is the first and quite influential benefit of walking barefoot, but there are many other benefits of walking barefoot as well. Such as:

Health Benefits Of Walking Barefoot

Yogis and spiritual heads in most parts of Asia still sleep on the floor to get connected with Mother Earth better.

  • In a review published in the Journal of Environmental and Public health, patients with chronic pain who slept on grounded carbon fiber mattresses saw a reduction in their pain, and slept better (1).
  • Earthing changes the electrical activity in the brain. It also helps skin conductivity, moderates glucose regulation, reduces stress and boosts immunity (2).
  • Barefoot walking or ‘earthing’ increases the surface charge of red blood cells, thereby avoiding clumping and the resultant heart diseases. It may also help regulate the endocrine and nervous systems (2).
  • Nature walks’ open up our minds amidst the greenery. Walking creates physical and emotional rhythms. Even a light stroll helps release endorphins.

Improves Sleep Quality

Remember our ancestors slept on the ground with minimal bed linen? Have you gone swimming in a lake or the ocean sometime and slept better that night? In both of the above, ‘earthing’ happens naturally, replacing positive ions of the body with the negative ions of the earth, thereby removing tension from the body. Walking barefoot is also supposed to enhance the circadian rhythm if done on a regular basis.

Keeps Us Alert

Exercise systems like Yoga, Tai Chi and martial arts are all performed barefoot, but do you know why? Masters in those sciences claim that being barefoot wires our brain and helps keep us alert at all times. Doing squats and lifting weights barefoot is gaining popularity as natural resistance is the best resistance from which the body benefits immensely.

Ionic Balance

We all are aware that our bodies are 70% water. When we walk barefoot, that water becomes more conductive and alert. An ionic balance is achieved within our cells and tissues, resulting in better health and keeping inflammation at bay.

Pic Courtesy : Top 10 Home Remedies

Enhances The Senses

Our cavemen ancestors walked on sand, grass, wood and pebbles and had strong legs. They enjoyed better health because the nerves and pressure points in their feet got better stimulated, and allowed more chi energy to flow to different areas of the body associated with those pressure points. By wearing footwear all the time, we are shutting out many sensory experiences and letting those nerve endings remain unstimulated.

Instils Mindfulness

When we walk barefoot, we need to watch where we are walking. We need to be in the present moment. Walking is a primal pattern and a sub-conscious activity for the homo-sapiens. When we allow our feet to come in contact with the ground barefoot, we let ourselves be drawn into a more conscious state.

Improves Overall Posture

Reiterating a fact mentioned earlier in the blog – we were made to walk barefoot, but one of the prices we have had to pay in return for civilisation and industrialisation is our dependency on footwear. Constant use of footwear weakens certain muscles of our feet, legs and abdomen.. We then rely on other muscles to compensate, leading to bad posture, pains and aches. When we walk, jog, run or play barefoot, we gift ourselves health. Those muscles that remained shielded from adequate use are now being put to work and have gained strength, giving us better stability, balance and posture. India’s Milind Soman who completed the Ironman Challenge in 15 hours, 19 minutes and 29 seconds in his first try runs barefoot most of the time. Milind Soman is an Indian supermodel, actor, film producer and fitness promoter. He along with Reema Sanghavi founded Pinkathon, India’s Biggest Women’s run created with the objective of spreading awareness about women’s health related issues, breast cancer in particular.

Benefits of barefoot walking, my thought lane

Milind Soman, the Pinkathon ambassador running barefoot

How To Walk Barefoot

Start Slowly : Set aside footwear for a while. Walk barefoot for at least 5-10 minutes a day to begin with. Are your soles complaining of hard surfaces? Did they feel poked and pricked? Are they really so tender or have we brought them to it? Time then to make a start and get them accustomed. Start walking barefoot at home for a day or two. Then step out and walk on bare ground, your feet may take it better. “It’s better to practice for 10 minutes a day than an hour once a week”, says Matthews.

Focus On Your Feet : Most often, as we take a step forward and roll the foot from heel to toe, our weight travels from the heel to the big toe. Walk around a bit and see for yourself. The little toe hardly touches the ground. The bones in the outer foot are the strongest and designed to support our bodies. The arch of the foot largely depends on how our feet roll. But, when the body weight travels directly from the heel to the toe, the arch tends to become weaker and collapse. Hence, try to shift your weight from the heel to the outer bones and from thereon to the little toe. This can immensely help people with flat feet. For the rest of us, it can help strengthen our knees, pelvic floor and muscles of the abdomen, when practiced over a period of time.The human body is a marvel, isn’t it ?

barefoot walking can transform your health, my thought lane

Milind Soman, actor and fitness enthusiast running barefoot

Where To Walk Barefoot : Start walking around barefoot at home. Then step out to try the natural ground. Walking on grass or sand is ideal and fun, but how many of us are so lucky? You have the option of visiting a park or the beach for a few minutes everyday. But, if your feet can take it and if you have no other choice, you may walk on the gravel or tiled pathways in your compounds. If your surroundings permit you in terms of safety and hygiene, try walking on the mud patches lining the streets. It’s really no big deal, just a matter of training your feet and that should take you a couple of days at the most.

Take care if you have broken skin or open wounds. Do remember to wash your feet under running water after ‘walking barefoot in the park’ !

Europe has provided over 100 shoe-free parks and paths to its citizens, with specially designed paths laid with either grass, logs, smooth stones, water and mud. In India, we do not have public spaces for such walking, but a few gyms and sports rehab centers have equipped their floors with indoor and outdoor walking tracks.

When To Watch Out

As with any exercise or new activity, we need to tread cautiously. Too much too soon can end up in some kind of an injury. Avoid walking barefoot if you experience any pain in your feet or legs. Give it a break and start again after resting them adequately. But do try it out and start a healthy habit. Walk, jog or dance barefoot, you will reap the benefits for sure. Consult your doctor if you have any health issues that may interfere with walking as a fitness activity per se. All general physicians may not be aware of the benefits of barefoot walking, they are neither trained nor aligned in recourse to nature. However, sports medicine doctors and fitness professionals are sure to be in the know-how and should be able to help you in case of doubts or advice. As we turn more and more towards naturopathy, make barefoot walking a part of your life, for at least five minutes a day.

Sources :

https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-9099/the-surprising-health-benefits-of-going-barefoot.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3265077/

https://healthywildandfree.com/the-effects-of-walking-barefoot-5-minutes-daily-are-astonishing/

http://www.naturalnewsblogs.com/negative-ions-friends

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Health And Fitness, Go The Natural Way Says Milind Soman At Hablis Hotels

When Milind Soman talks on fitness, people listen. We listened too in rapt attention, at Hablis Hotels. A chat session on fitness and nutrition was organized at the hotel. Milind Soman, the brand ambassador for Pinkathon was staying at Hablis for their Chennai run and how could we let him go without engaging him in his pet subject and ours too? Wellness!

Hablis Pinkathon team

The Hablis-Pinkathon team

Hablis Hotels has been Pinkathon’s hospitality partner, rather the wellness partner for the last two years and Milind Soman and his entire team do not have to struggle  with their wellness needs as the hotel understands. They love the ambience and the hotel’s commitment to mind-body-social wellness.

More about Milind Soman and Pinkathon:

Running 1500 kilometres in 30 days for Greenathon-NDTV to spread environmental awareness, he became a Limca record holder. A national swimming champion, he has sports and fitness in his blood I guess. In 2015, he completed the Ironman Triathlon in 15 hours and 19 minutes in his very first try. What did he have to do to win this title ? A 3.8 km swim, a 180.2 km cycle ride and 42.2 km race in that order without a break and required to complete within 16 hours. Whew! I am burning calories just writing this!!

In 2012, Pinkathon , India’s largest womens’ only running event was set up under his guidance to promote good health and spread breast cancer awareness and has since then been conducting runs in several cities of India every year.

Milind Soman the Pinkathon ambassador

Milind Soman, the Pinkathon ambassador

Coming back to the wellness chat with the fitness freak that Milind Soman is, we gathered around him with the hotel’s chef team and many other wellness enthusiasts to collect as many health tips from him as we could. He had a point, he wished to address the chefs, for it is they he said that need to understand wellness as they roll out dishes that satiate the palates of the guests. He encouraged chefs to spend time working out despite their crazily busy schedules. A fit chef is a live example of what healthy lifestyle can do to a body. At the end of the session, he donned the chef’s hat and whipped up a simple healthy salad.

Chef Sathya and Milind Soman at Hablis Hotels

Milind Soman dons the chefs hat at Hablis Hotels and mixed a healthy salad

So they begin with the basics. What fosters wellness?

MS : A balanced life in all ways. Right eating, right exercising, enough sleep and mindful living. The word ‘right’ simply translates to ‘mindfulness’ in this context he explains. For when one is mindful, one begins to do most things right, cutting out negative habits, inculcating a positive approach and keeping an open mind. Hablis couldn’t agree more.

Do you know that our bodies produce happy hormones called Serotonin? Serotonin regulates moods and makes us feel happy and these hormones get released into our bodies when we eat healthy food and exercise. Exposure to sun also helps, but make sure you get a few minutes of tender sunlight and not the harsh noon sun. Ask people who exercise and they will tell you what it does to their beings – induces happiness!

How does one determine what is right when it comes to eating, exercising and all else?

MS : Life is all about learning and continuing to learn till our last breath. Remember your grandma’s words? She was and is right. Did she advocate moderation in everything that you did? Follow that. Our ancestors’ fundamentals were strong and that is precisely why most of them kept good health till their ripe old age. Did she use jaggery more often than she used sugar? Did she pour a spoon of ghee on your plate of rice? Did she admonish you in childhood when you grimaced at eating fruits and vegetables but ran out to buy sweetmeats and savouries from the neighbourhood store?

Get back to grandma’s wisdom. Couple them with sensible new-age concepts and you will get wellness on a platter. Getting there is not easy though, you have to become a student first.

FIX : Begin by consulting reliable nutritionists and fitness coaches to know whats best for you and from thereon, become a student of wellness – it can be life-changing!

Milind Soman firmly believes that to become fit and remain that way, we all have to invest time and money in getting familiar with the basics and then on, learning to apply them in our daily lives. True that. Fitness and wellness ‘learned’ will remain with us longer than when we are spoon fed by trainers and nutritionists. We have one body to last us a lifetime, we would do well to train our minds and bodies on the path to fitness.

There is so much information on health out there, it is confusing.

MS : I agree. Read only that is relevant to you, take one step at a time. Adopt simple eating habits and food. Avoid workouts that tax you and leave you drained. And as rule of the thumb, steer clear of crash diets and quick-fix workouts, even if they are suggested by your trainers. Good health is acquired over time, every cell in the body learns to absorb and reacts to every act of us, human beings.

When I say simple food, I am referring to food that is local, seasonal and easily available without having to chase fancy ingredients. Look for nutrition in them and learn to make a balanced meal that consists of carbohydrates, proteins and a reasonable amount of fat. If someone tells you to go off carbs or fat, pause. Unless it comes from your doctor or therapist! Please don’t worry too much about gluten that is being talked about in all circles. Not all are allergic to gluten and till you are, there is no reason to block it out. Try getting most nutrients from the food that you eat everyday. 

Milind Soman practices what he advocates. His staple diet be it at home, or while he travels is Khichdi, the simplest dish to make and full of nutrition. It is accompanied by lots of vegetables, and fruits are a part of his breakfast. This is not say that he does not enjoy other foods. He gives in to temptations once in a while, but then sweats it out the next day.

Khichdi

Khichdi, a nutritious Indian delicacy made from rice and lentils

Khichdi is a comfort food but healthy, made from rice and lentils spiced differently in different parts of India. Click here to get a recipe and then browse on google for variations in taste. He touched upon jaggery and ghee and here is what he said:

Jaggery and Ghee :

Jaggery cake at hablis hotels by chef sathya

Chef Sathya baked a jaggery cake at Hablis Hotels to welcome Milind Soman

Milind Soman has moved over to jaggery from sugar long ago. Knowing his passion for jaggery, Chef Sathya of Hablis Hotels baked a jaggery cake to welcome him and it was yummy. We also felt encouraged to bite into an extra piece knowing it was made from natural ingredients. Milind extends a word of caution here : choose dark coloured jaggery, the light shaded ones could be bleached and try to buy it from organic stores – all that said, consume jaggery too in moderation like everything else. A tip worth noting.

MS : Ghee has made a comeback and for good reason. It was never bad, he continues. Ghee became a victim of health fads and thankfully the very same people have now embraced it as a must-eat. One spoon of ghee everyday has tremendous health benefits, but do consult your doctor if you have any health issues.

(More on ghee and jaggery in blogs dedicated to them, there is so much to write about!)

MS : Say No To Refined Foods :

If you wish wellness for you and your families, stay as close to nature as possible. By that I mean,

  • Consume food made from natural ingredients.
  • Refined foods are a no-no, they satisfy your palate but add empty calories.
  • Keep tinned/canned food for emergencies only and discourage your kids at an early age to do so too.
  • Reward your kid with a healthy food every time they win something, you are doing them goodness for a lifetime.
  • Similarly, we do not need external health supplements. Eat healthy and balanced meals and try to make food your medicine.
  • Our ancestors’ (Indian) eating habits are a treasure-house of home remedies. Read, consult, understand and apply those tips and you are well on your way to good health.
  • Include lots of vegetables and fruits in your everyday meals.
  • Eat fruits on an empty stomach or eat them one hour before or after a meal. Take this as nature’s command and do not ever eat fruits along with a meal.

I could see a smile of satisfaction on the chefs’ faces, for Hablis strongly implements the ‘no tinned/canned ingredients’ concept. Milind Soman was excited that the hotel uses only fresh and seasonal produce in all its cooking. Chef Sathya and his team do rounds of the market almost every day to procure fresh fruits and vegetables and every sauce and dressing is made in-house.

We see around us a lot of people injuring themselves while working out. What is the best way to exercise?

MS : Start working out under supervision and gradually build your knowledge of the body and workouts. Listen to your body. Challenge it but do not push too many barriers – leave it for later when you are in intermediate or advanced stage of fitness. The safest way to build healthy strong muscles is with body-weight exercises. The chance of injuries is lesser. That is not to gainsay the role of weights in building a fit body, but weights have to be borne with caution and a certain technique.

 The key to a toned body is form or posture to begin with. When form is right, you cant go wrong. Practice proper posture in every walk of life. Chefs, you need to be on your feet for most part of your working hours, nothing is more important than maintaining right posture if you want your body to cooperate with your work!! Tuck your tummy in at all times and do not slouch. If you feel good within yourself, you will churn out good food.

 Train your bodies for functional fitness. We need energy and a fit body to do all the pulls and pushes in our daily lives. We do not lead our lives in the gyms. I know people that can lift the heaviest of weights at the gym but ask them to bend down and pack a suitcase, they complain of back pain. Focus more on strengthening your body holistically rather than building it for how you want to appear. With fitness comes good posture, with posture comes confidence and with confidence you are bound to look good.

Milind Soman’s workout pattern : Run, run and run and at other times, do body-weight exercises. He runs long distances three to four times a week and works out to strengthen his core and upper body. He has trained to run marathons and is equipped to run right. Running does not come easily to many of us and so let us do what  suits our bodies and life-style keeping in mind all of the above. Thank you Milind Soman!

We are hoping to get more from him on health and fitness when he stays at Hablis Hotels next. In the meantime, Hablis Hotels, Chennai’s urban wellness destination has a lot of interesting wellness facilities like their Infinity Swimming Pool, open air fitness zone, Spa with customised soothing, blended oils and all their restaurants serving food made from natural, seasonal fruits and vegetables. You can also take home wellness in jars that comprise of dehydrated fruits, whole spices and spice powders, seeds, millet cookies, jams and pickles. Contact :

Hablis Hotels, 19 GST Road, Guindy, Chennai 600032, India, Tel : 91 44 4023 5555