Previously, we have briefly outlined some of the benefits, as well as different forms of red/infrared light therapy. Although it sounds as though red/infrared light therapy can’t be “different”, one may be surprised. Although all forms of this therapy do act on a similar foundational level (cytochrome c oxidase, blood flow, glutathione redox balance, etc), there are subtle differences. For instance, there is transcranial light therapy, as we’ve previously established, as well as incandescent light therapy; you can also use far infrared rays to stimulate toxin removal and blood flow, or you can hop in or create (DIY) an infrared or “full spectrum” (near, “medium”, and far) infrared sauna for massive a metabolic stimulus and rather stellar detoxification effects. Nonetheless, these wavelengths of light have a profound impact on our mitochondrial well-being, as well as our endogenous antioxidant status.
One would be led to imagine that if these wavelengths of light act on such a foundational level, they would undoubtedly enhance athletic performance. That isn’t far fetched, either. This was portrayed in a cohort study in 2012.
Operating on a foundation of knowledge we alluded to above, the authors of this study decided to do an experiment in which 20 female basketball were exposed to primarily red light for 14 consecutive days for 30 minutes under the piece of equipment (while laying in a swimsuit) made by Shanghai Dayou PDT Technology Co shown below. The light had an average wavelength of 658nm, and its strength was 30J per square centimeter. Half of the women were exposed to the red light (Red-light treatment), half were not. Participants were placed in these groups randomly. The women were blindfolded while under the lamps, and they received the treatments at night, before bed.
The red light provoked a marked improvement in the quality of the women’s sleep, as established by their Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (which decreased). Interestingly, the researchers found more melatonin in their blood early in the morning
Before and after the treatment period the researchers had the women do the Cooper test (as many laps as possible on a 400-m outdoor track during the 12-minute test period, though with emphasis on pacing oneself). The figure above shows that the women who had had the red light therapy covered a 12.8% greater distance during the 12 minutes that the test lasted. The women in the placebo group only covered a 5.5% greater distance. The researchers stated, “Based on previous studies, we can infer that red-light treatment contributes to increased melatonin secretion in the pineal gland and muscle regeneration (…) Although more studies involving phototherapy, sleep, and exercise performance need to be performed, red-light treatment is a possible nonpharmacologic and noninvasive therapy to prevent sleep disorders after training.”How one may replicate this study at home is a different story, though using infrared heat lamps or red LEDs are definitely viable options.