As tempting as skipping leg day can be, skipping rest days is even more appealing. For everyone who is highly motivated to excel in their sport or their fitness goals, allowing adequate time for recovery between training can feel impossible. And for those of us who are just getting acquainted with the gym, multiple days marked by muscle pain and weakness can make building good exercise habits extremely difficult. The harsh truth is that regardless of whether you’re a power-lifter, yogi, or avid stationary cyclist, a hard workout requires recovery time. Anything we do that pushes the limits of our strength and endurance causes at least some temporary strain and damage to our muscles, otherwise known as muscle fatigue. If we deny ourselves adequate time to recover between workouts, we can’t perform at our best, and if we skip too many rest days, fatigue can accumulate and put us at heightened risk for injury or overtraining.

In some cases, overtraining can take months or even years to recover from (1). Maximizing recovery efficiency is therefore critical for maximizing training efficiency. That is, if it takes less time for our muscles to recover after exercise, we can reach our goals faster. Red light therapy is an exciting approach to improving recovery time that has become popular among elite athletes and sports professionals and has rapidly gained extensive scientific support over the last decade (1). Studies conducted in both animals and humans have demonstrated red-lights ability to influence the structural and metabolic changes associated with muscle fatigue (2). For example, red light therapy has been shown to reduce post-exercise blood lactate concentration (2). Lactate is a byproduct of the cellular metabolic changes associated with the development of fatigue. As energy demands on the muscle exceed energy production, changes in metabolic processes cause lactate to accumulate around the active muscle. The build-up of lactate is thought to inhibit the ability of the muscle to contract, resulting in a decline in performance (1). A 2011 study that evaluated lactate levels in 6 athletes after a challenging physical test found lower concentrations of blood lactate in athletes who received red-light therapy after the physical test compared to those who didn’t (3).

Similar results have been observed in animal models of muscle fatigue. For example, in a study conducted on the effects of low-level irradiation after exercise, Liu and colleagues (2009)  found reduced levels of inflammation after downhill running tasks in rats that received red light therapy compared to rats that did not (4). During exercise, especially if the activity is new or high intensity, the contraction of muscle fibers can cause microscopic tears in the tissue. These microlesions lead to an inflammatory response that can impair functional recovery and muscle remodeling and, ultimately, can increase the number of rest days you need (5).

Red light therapy has also been shown to reduce oxidative stress, another important biological feature of muscle fatigue (2). As you use your muscles to their maximum capacity, the cellular respiration process begins to produce harmful molecules known as free radicals. The effect free radicals have on your cells is what’s called oxidative stress. Exercise-related oxidative stress can reduce blood flow and can damage the cell’s mitochondria, both of which are critical for muscle recovery (1).

Research into red light’s influence on muscular recovery processes spans different members of the animal kingdom, forms of exercise, and training intensity levels. Across all this variety, post-exercise treatment with red light reliably impacts structural and metabolic processes associated with muscle fatigue (6). By reducing the harmful cellular by-products of exercise, red light therapy can accelerate recovery time. Though precise mechanisms for how red light reduces biomarkers of fatigue are still disputed, one common theory centers around the photosensitive nature of mitochondria. Because red light’s long wavelengths are able to penetrate through the skin and into the muscle tissue with minimal diffusion, it can interact directly with a cell’s light-reactive mitochondria (2). As you likely know, mitochondria are the “powerhouses” of the cell, meaning one of their main functions is to produce the energy that cells require to operate efficiently. Red light is thought to improve cellular respiration and energy-synthesis in mitochondria, which allows them to boost overall cellular function (2). By accelerating the cellular processes required for recovery, red light can facilitate full muscle recovery in less time.

For professional athletes and home-workout enthusiasts alike, optimal performance necessitates a balance between hard work and recovery time. The process of building strength and endurance is taxing all the way down to a cellular level, which is why our bodies require adequate rest. The amount of time required for recovery is thus a major limiting factor in how quickly we can arrive at our fitness and athletic goals. Red light therapy is a safe and scientifically supported approach to achieving maximum recovery in minimal time. Whether you’re just starting to build fitness habits or you’re training to dominate in competitions, red light therapy might be a great choice for you.

Resources:

  1. Forsey, Jillian Danielle (2020). The Effects of Acute Photobiomodulation on Anaerobic Exercise Performance. Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 7529. Link
  2. Ferraresi, C., Hamblin, M.R., & Parizotto, N.A. (2012). Low-level laser (light) therapy (LLLT) on muscle tissue: performance, fatigue, and repair benefited by the power of light. Photonics and lasers in medicine. 1(4):267-286. Link
  3. Leal Junior EC, de Godoi V, Mancalossi JL, Rossi RP, De Marchi T, Parente M, Grosselli D, Generosi RA, Basso M, Frigo L, Tomazoni SS, Bjordal JM, Lopes-Martins RA. Comparison between cold water immersion therapy (CWIT) and light-emitting diode therapy (LEDT) in short-term skeletal muscle recovery after high-intensity exercise in athletes – preliminary results. Lasers Med Sci 2011;26(4):493–501. Link
  4. Liu, X.G., Zhou, Y.J., Liu, T.C., & Yuan, J.Q. (2009). Effects of low-level laser irradiation on rat skeletal muscle injury after eccentric exercise. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery. 27(6):863-869. Link
  5. Peak, J., Neubauer, O., Della Gatta, P., & Nosaka, K. (2016). Muscle damage and inflammation during recovery from exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 122: 559-570. Link
  6. Leal-Junior, E.C.P (2015). Photobiomodulation Therapy in Skeletal Muscle: From exercise performance to muscular dystrophy. Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, 33(2). 53-54. Link
medical grade light therapy

What’s the deal with Red Light Therapy…. and is it real?

Over the course of the past 5 years, I’ve had the opportunity to reinvent myself, change careers, take a sabbatical, live in Costa Rica, and work in the tech development industry in Silicon Valley. Through this time of self-reflection and reinvention, I’ve had the chance to spend significant amounts of time in sunny climates, and the importance of how light changes your biology has never been more clear to me.

As a consumer and self-proclaimed bio-hacker, once I was able to isolate the effects of light on my biology, I quickly realized the opportunity as I understood immediately how the introduction of light into your daily regimen can optimize your life. Over the course of my life, I’ve tried nearly every form optimization, and never have I felt the profound effects like red & near-infrared light therapy.

In this article, I highlight the evolution, the science, the technology and how I integrate red light therapy into my daily regimen.

How Does Light heal?

At its most basic level, light is pure energy. Made up of packets of energy called photons, light from sources like the sun power almost all biological processes on our planet. Without light, all living things on the planet would perish..

Light is also instrumental in keeping us at peak health. Ultraviolet or UV light has long been recognized as essential for vitamin D production in our skin which helps keep our bones strong. At a molecular level, there are literally dozens of mechanisms that are triggered via specific wavelengths of light.

For example, Cytochrome C Oxidase is a photoreceptor on the mitochondria that are triggered by light photons, specifically red and near-infrared wavelengths.

Why is Red & Infrared Light Therapy Important?

At the molecular level, these pathways and channels are affected by these specific wavelengths, which in turn activates (or optimizes) cellular process.

In other words, Red & Infrared Light Therapy triggers molecular events that then triggers cellular processes, which then affects our structural systems like muscles, brain, nerves, bones, hair, and skin. Basically, red and near-infrared light helps bulletproof YOU!

Don’t I get enough light from the Sun?

In 2015, I took the summer to ride my pedal bike across the country. I didn’t have a schedule and just took my time at my own pace. Needless to say, I was outdoors…. A LOT. I spent an average of 6 hours a day in the sun and developed a savage tan. After 4 months of riding my bike, I decided to move to Costa Rica to round out my sabbatical with something epic.

In retrospect, I didn’t understand the biological process of what was happening to my body, but during the bike ride, any ailments or issues I previously had, went away. I had almost zero inflammation, even after 4000+ miles of pedaling. Even in Costa Rica, I wasn’t aware of what was happening, as I thought my good mood and health was related to the fact that I was walking the beach everyday, surfing, sleeping amazing, and basically filming a Coruna commercial every day.

It wasn’t until a few years later when I came across red light therapy that I started to piece the puzzle together. As I investigated the science and bought a few of the lights that are available for At-Home treatments, I had the epiphany about the Sun and how light regulates our biological process. The quantity of light I was receiving during the bike ride and the Costa Rican adventure allowed my cells to be optimized, even though there were significant amounts of negative light (i.e. sunburn via UV radiation) that were being absorbed, the beneficial aspects were undeniable.

The science behind the magic relates to the wavelengths and quantity of each wavelength that is absorbed into our cells. With sunlight being full-spectrum, its impossible to balance the dosage (getting the correct quantity of beneficial wavelengths) for optimized health. However, technology now allows us to isolate the beneficial wavelengths that have been scientifically proven to improve health, while at the same time removing the negative wavelengths (UV, Blue, and Violet). So, all the positive vibes you have after going to the beach can be had at home with red and near-infrared light therapy.

Incorporating Light Therapy Into Your Life

Over the course of my life, I’ve always been a healthy well-balanced soul. I’ve experimented with intermittent fasting, ketogenic diets, carnivore diets, long term fasting, competitive cycling, meditation retreats, and nothing has had such a profound effect on my health and well being as red & infrared light therapy.

I use my light 5 to 6 times a week. I set it up and position it near my work station shining from the side, as the light actually helps strengthen your eyes – truth be told, I’m using it right while I write this post.

I sometimes position the light next to my yoga mat and stretch and meditate in front of it. As you look online, you’ll see complicated formulas for distance and time, but due to the fact that there are ZERO negative side effects, I’ve found my approach of ‘any’ is better than ‘none’, and this keeps the positive effects front & center in my life.

Since incorporating light therapy into my life, my workouts have gotten better (testosterone improvements), I sleep deeper (optimized circadian rhythms), I’m more balanced (reduced depression), I get sick less (increased immunity), and my total perspective on life has improved (systemic improvements). In addition, I believe my skin is more resilient and younger-looking (collagen production).

Consistency Is Key

Since incorporating red & near-infrared light into my life, I’ve been a ‘fanboy’ of the technology, and have sold lots of lights to friends and family. Every time I discuss the process, I’m careful to advise that it takes time and consistency. For me personally, I think it took about 2-3 weeks before I started noticing the impact.

It’s an amazing time that we’re living in, and the ability for us to affect our physiology has never been greater. Like many reading about this technology (maybe for the first time), I suspect you may be skeptical. I would recommend that you take a look at some medical publications that walk through the technology, and the results/conclusions. A few of my favorites would be:

Last but not least, place a call-to-action at the bottom of your blog post. This should be to a lead-generating piece of content or to a sales-focused landing page for a demo or consultation.

medical grade light therapy

Since the first beam of light erupted from the Big Bang, light has been essential for life.  Although you may believe that light is only for growing food and not bumping into the coffee table, light has many healing and nutritional properties that make it foundational for good health. Certain types of light can produce amazing health benefits including skin rejuvenation, hair growth, stronger bones, and faster wound healing. Modern medicine has discovered that red light (light with wavelengths from 630 to 880 nanometers) produces unique health benefits. These discoveries have fueled emerging medical technologies like Red Light Therapy, also known as photobiomodulation or low-level light therapy (LLLT). The power of Red Light Therapy lies in its ability to penetrate from 8 to 10 millimeters beneath the skin and energize the cells of blood vessels, nerves, epidermis, lymph tissue and hair follicles.1

How Light Heals

Light may seem like a relatively inconsequential phenomenon—after all, any child can flip on a light. However, at its most basic level, light is pure energy, and that is extremely powerful.  Made up of packets of energy called photons, light from sources like the sun power almost all biological processes on our planet. Without light, plants wouldn’t grow, animals couldn’t feed, and humanity would bid the world “goodbye” very quickly.

More than powering the food chain, light is also instrumental in keeping us at peak health. Ultraviolet or UV light has long been recognized as essential for vitamin D production in our skin which helps keep our bones strong. Similarly, infrared light in the 630-670 (visible red light) and 810-880 nm (invisible infrared light) has been shown to penetrate the skin and soft tissue to supercharge important cellular processes like mitochondrial function and ATP production. In other words, Infrared Light Therapy feeds your cells energy to help optimize their performance.

Early Applications of Light Therapy

Ancient civilizations realized many centuries ago that specific kinds of light promoted good health. The earliest Egyptians built colored glass solariums to treat various afflictions. The ancient Chinese believed that the right colors could improve health and fortune. Ancient Greece, the birthplace of science and medicine, was the first culture to use color and light to treat various health conditions.2

At the beginning of the scientific age, great thinkers like Isaac Newton and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe explored the relationship between light, color and physiology.  In the late 1800s, Dr. Seth Pancoast and Edwin D. Babbit conducted some of the first empirical studies of light therapy and health benefits.3

However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century when physician Niels Finsen used short wavelength light to treat the skin ailment lupus vulgaris that modern light therapy was invented. In 1895, Finsen established the Finsen Institute for Phototherapy in Copenhagen. At his institute, Finsen exposed patients with lupus vulgaris to ultraviolet light for up to two hours a day in the hopes that the light would kill the bacteria that caused the condition. Among the more than 800 patients who sought treatment at the Finsen Institute for Phototherapy, more than half were cured.4

Dr. Finsen, who is hailed as the father of modern photobiomodulation, received the 1903 Nobel Prize in Medicine. Dr. Finsen’s discoveries ushered in an era of widespread adoption of light therapy in Europe that lasted through much of the first half of the 20th century.

Modern Light Therapy

Due to the amazing results produced by Dr. Finsen and other medical professionals, light therapy quickly became a popular form of treatment for many conditions including chronic pain, tuberculosis and arthritis.  However, by the 1960s, new lighting technology sparked interest in new light therapies. The advent of LED lighting with its ability to produce many wavelengths of light helped develop new treatments for more soft tissue and skin conditions.5 Among the conditions that LED light therapy and blue light therapy were used to treat include

  • Psoriasis
  • Immune system stimulation
  • Bacterial infection
  • Acne
  • Actinic keratosis
  • Seasonal Affect Disorder
  • Gout
  • Bursitis
  • Inflammatory conditions of muscles and joints

In the 1980s, great advances in Red Light Therapy brought this particular therapy to the forefront of the field.  Unlike UV light and blue light therapies that cannot penetrate deep into the skin or underlying tissue, red and infrared light therapy can penetrate as far as two inches into the human body. That is why Red Light Therapy is efficacious in treating superficial health conditions like acne and poor skin tone, as well as more deeply embedded issues like joint pain and rheumatoid arthritis as well as pain-related conditions like inflammation.

In the 1990s, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration conducted a series of studies into various kinds of light therapy in a zero-gee environment. Initially, the studies focused on how light promoted growth in plants outside of a gravity well, but later studies involved therapies on human subjects.

NASA was interested in treating astronauts for common health conditions while in space including bone loss, muscle atrophy and slowed wound healing. NASA scientists discovered that infrared light therapy helped stimulate cellular growth by a rate of 150 to 200 percent. It appears that infrared light expedites certain energy production processes in cells that involve ATP and nitric oxide.6Currently this speedy healing technology is used by NASA and elite organizations like Navy SEALs.  One study performed by the Navy SEALs found that LED Red Light Therapy increased recovery rates by 41 percent.7 Major research institutions like John Hopkins University, Stanford University and the Mayo Clinic are currently studying the healing effects of low-level light therapy on various health conditions.

Current State of Red Light Therapy

At the heart of Red Light Therapy is the ability of light of wavelengths 630-670 nm and 810-880 nm to strengthen cellular mitochondria.  Mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells and where adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is created. ATP is the key energy component of all cellular processes.

The ability to supercharge energy production in human cells has intrigued medical researchers.  An increasing amount of research supports the idea that Red Light Therapy may produce the following health benefits:

  • Promotes tissue repair and wound healing
  • Offers short-term improvement of carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Boosts hair growth among those with androgenic alopecia
  • Reduces psoriasis lesions
  • Relieves pain and stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis patients
  • Limits some cancer treatment side effects including oral mucositis
  • Builds collagen in skin for wrinkle repair
  • Aids in repair of sun damage to skin
  • Helps prevent cold sores caused by herpes simplex virus infections
  • Helps remove scar tissue8

Red Light Therapy has gained acceptance in the medical community as well as the wider public despite lacking FDA approval.  The popularity of Red Light Therapy has surged so greatly that many spas and fitness centers now offer sessions for cosmetic or recuperative purposes. Most Red Light Therapy work found in day spas or other commercial establishments can be quite pricey due to the expensive nature of the equipment used. However, new innovative companies like Lux Therapy are bringing to market personal Red Light Therapy devices that promise the same miraculous health benefits in the comfort of your home and at a reasonable price. You may find Lux Therapy devices for purchase on major retail vendors like Amazon as well as on the Lux Therapy website.

References

  1. Ari Whitten. “The Ultimate Guide to Red Light Therapy.” 2018.
  2. F. Ellinger. Medical Radiation Biology. Springfield, 1957.
  3. Edwin D. Babbitt. Principles of Light and Color. 1878.
  4. “The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1903”. Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB. 2016-11-01.
  5. Won-Serk Kim and R Glen Calderhead. “Is light-emitting diode phototherapy (LED-LLLT) really effective?” Laser Ther. 2011; 20(3): 205–215.
  6. Pok Kee Min, MD PhD and Boncheol Leo Goo. “830 nm light-emitting diode low level light therapy (LED-LLLT) enhances wound healing: a preliminary study.” Laser Ther. 2013; 22(1): 43–49.
  7. Harry Whelan, et al. “Effect of NASA Light-Emitting Diode Irradiation on Wound Healing.” Journal of Clinical Laser Medicine & Surgery 19(6):305-14 · January 2002.
  8. Jacquelyn Cafasso. “Red Light Therapy Benefits.” Healthline. May 11, 2018.
medical grade light therapy

Skin Enhancements

The benefits of light exposure to the skin have been known for millennia, the healing and rejuvenating benefits of red light therapy are just surfacing. Red light therapy is a non-invasive method to help combat a variety of medical conditions painlessly while reducing inflammation and cell death.

Light’s therapeutic power starts by giving skin a healthy look and feel and extends to wound healing, reduced inflammation, wrinkle reduction, and treatment of medical conditions including acne, eczema, psoriasis and vitiligo.

Red and near infrared light penetrates more deeply than other light waves allowing their benefits to extend into the dermis, affecting soft tissues, blood vessels and nerves. The skin care benefits of red light therapy are vast but can be summarized as promoting healing, reducing inflammation, rejuvenating skin and reducing cell death.

Other therapies such as laser treatments and acids intentionally damage the skin before encouraging new growth, whereas the unique approach offered by red and infrared light therapy bypasses those destructive steps and immediately stimulates regenerative processes. Red light therapy combats medical conditions, inflammation, aging, and more without pain.

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