Athletes around the world are starting to discover the benefits of red light therapy, not only to enhance performance, but to optimize their recovery. Light therapy is a non-invasive technique that reaches through the deepest layers of the dermis to aid in muscle recovery from sports injuries or aching muscles. Michael Watts, the Director of Athletic Performance at Under Armor, once said that “exposure to light with the correct wavelengths at the right times supports our diurnal rhythm, and our overall health and wellness.” Light not only influences our circadian rhythm, it affects our alertness and mood as well. So, how does our light therapy here at AAO Care work, and how can it help your performance in the gym, on the field or on the court?
AAO Care recommends using our Red Light option to achieve athletic performance and recovery. Red Light helps to increase blood flow, “help[ing] the mitochondria in muscular cells complete their respiration cycle more efficiently,” lessening muscular fatigue (LED Technologies). With increased blood flow, your muscles will be able to develop healthier and stronger muscle fibers. Long term, Red Light Therapy benefits athletes to have healthier muscles, rather than just focusing on quick results.
Many athletes are curious how light therapy can enhance their performance in the weight room, on the field or out on the court. There has been extensive research conducted by Ferraresi in 2011, suggesting that there was an increase in muscular strength when a group using Red Light Therapy was compared to a control group. The study followed 36 men performing a leg press with 80% of their 1 Repetition Maximum. Over a 12 week period, it was found that the group using light therapy on their legs immediately after the training session had a 55% increase in strength when compared to the control group, which saw a 26% increase.
Additionally, a study conducted by Miranda in 2018 found that there was a significant increase in muscular endurance from the group using Light Therapy before and/or after a training session, compared to a control group. This study followed 70 healthy individuals performing a treadmill-training routine 3 times per week. Over the 12 week period, the subjects were judged on their time until exhaustion, oxygen uptake, and body fat. Individuals using light therapy on their legs before and after the training session saw an increase in the amount of time until exhaustion and also an increase in oxygen uptake. They also saw a significant improvement in percentage of change of body fat. This study was assessed on the p-value of the data collected, which is a statistical measurement used to validate a hypothesis. Both of these results had a p-value of p<0.05, which is enough to be considered statistically significant.
Lastly, a study in 2014 conducted by De Brito Vieira found that athletes using light therapy between sets when going for a one rep max experienced less fatigue. While there are benefits no matter what time you use Red Light Therapy, there was a study conducted by Vanin in 2016 suggesting that athletes looking to enhance their strength training would benefit most from applying Red Light before strength training. For athletes looking to enhance their endurance, Vanin’s study found that light applied both before and after the training session led to an improvement in endurance. Even though our Light Therapy will be beneficial to you no matter when you use it; you may want to schedule your sessions around your workouts based on your goals.
Performance isn’t the only thing Red Light Therapy can optimize. Our devices also help with recovery from your workouts, specifically with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. DOMS is the feeling you get for the two to three days following an intense training session. The most heightened form of DOMS is the result of an intensive eccentric training session. Eccentric training is a common strength training technique focused on a slow negative repetition, and a regular-tempo contraction to move the weight back up. For example, while benching, an athlete may take three to five seconds lowering the bar to their chest, and then a quick one second count to push the bar back up, hence having a slow negative, and a regular contraction. This style causes the most microfiber tears in your muscle, helping it to build back even stronger. A study from Baroni in 2010 found that using Red Light Therapy before an eccentric focused workout would help to reduce the negative effects of DOMS, therefore decreasing soreness over the succeeding days.
Sleep is one of the most important factors to recovery. It not only helps your body recover, but also helps your body perform the next day! Maybe even more important are the cognitive benefits to getting great sleep. We all know that groggy, cloudy feeling following a horrible night of sleep. If your mind isn’t functioning at 100%, how can you expect your training to be? A study by Zhao in 2012 on female Chinese basketball players looked to test the effects of Red Light Therapy on the quality of sleep the athletes got. When compared to the placebo group, the athletes that were using Red Light Therapy experienced better quality sleep and natural increases of melatonin secretion throughout the night. From this, we can see just how beneficial an evening light therapy session can be not only for sleep, but for recovery too.
Lastly, athletes can benefit from using Red Light Therapy to recover from minor injuries. In 2016, Laser Therapy Journal studied a group of college level athletes who had minor injuries. They gauged the trial on how long it took an athlete to return to play, or RTP, following their injury. There was a mean RTP time of 19.23 days between the subjects, however, the athletes that used LED Light Therapy to aid with their injuries had a mean RTP 9.6. That’s practically cutting RTP in half! The researchers at Laser Therapy Journal concluded from the study that “LED phototherapy significantly and safely reduced the RTP in dedicated athletes over a wide range of injuries with no adverse events.”
Baroni, B.M., Leal Junior, E.C.P., De Marchi, T. et al. Low level laser therapy before eccentric exercise reduces muscle damage markers in humans. Eur J Appl Physiol 110, 789–796 (2010).
De Brito Vieira, Wouber Hérickson, et al. “Use of Low-Level Laser Therapy (808 Nm) to Muscle Fatigue Resistance: A Randomized Double-Blind Crossover Trial.” Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, vol. 32, no. 12, 11 Dec. 2014, pp. 678–685.
Miranda, E.F., Tomazoni, S.S., de Paiva, P.R.V. et al. When is the best moment to apply photobiomodulation therapy (PBMT) when associated to a treadmill endurance-training program? A randomized, triple-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lasers Med Sci 33, 719–727 (2018).
Ferraresi, C., de Brito Oliveira, T., de Oliveira Zafalon, L. et al. Effects of low level laser therapy (808 nm) on physical strength training in humans. Lasers Med Sci 26, 349–358 (2011).
“Under Armour Performance Team Uses Red Light Therapy.” Joovv.
Vanin, A.A., Miranda, E.F., Machado, C.S.M. et al. What is the best moment to apply phototherapy when associated to a strength training program? A randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Lasers Med Sci 31, 1555–1564 (2016).
Zhao, Jiexiu, et al. “Red Light and the Sleep Quality and Endurance Performance of Chinese Female Basketball Players.” Journal of Athletic Training, vol. 47, no. 6, 2012, pp. 673–678.