Red Light Therapy and Athletic Performance & Recovery

Red Light Therapy

Whether professional athlete or just looking to improve our fitness, we all know the importance of proper training and recovery. While good form and consistency can help us attain our fitness goals, there are some new technologies which may provide us with a boost. In particular, a new light-based therapeutic treatment, called Red Light Therapy (RLT), has risen in popularity due to the array of health benefits it can offer.

What is Red Light Therapy?

Red light therapy (RLT), sometimes referred to as low-level laser therapy, is a therapeutic treatment that leverages the power of red low-level wavelengths of light to treat a variety of health issues. The therapy exposes your skin to low levels of red (more formally termed as ‘near-infrared) light.

Upon exposure, red light seeps into the skin, kick-starts collagen production, reduces inflammation and stimulates blood flow.

RLT achieves this via biochemical reaction in cells which strengthens the activity of a vital piece of cellular apparatus known as ‘mitochondria’.

Mitochondria are responsible for energy creation throughout the body. Mitochondria are famously referred to as the ‘powerhouse of the cell’. Small but mighty, these microscopic pieces of machinery produce the energy carrying molecule of all living things, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). By stimulating mitochondria via RLT, more ATP can be produced. Equipped with all of this extra energy, cells are able to function more efficiently, repair damage and rejuvenate at a faster pace.

Extra energy and accelerated cellular repair? Sounds like the perfect combination for athletic performance and recovery!

Science-backed benefits of RLT for athletic performance and recovery

RLT increases muscle mass & delays fatigue

A 2016 study found potentially one of the most attractive benefits of RLT for athletes – RLT increases maximal load in exercise and muscle mass.

Over a 12-week strength training programme, researchers found that subjects who underwent red light therapy exhibited less fatigue, had significantly increased muscle mass and outperformed controls across their training sessions. Participants who were given RLT prior to training also showed reduced muscle atrophy, decreased levels of inflammatory markers and a more efficient cellular response to stress.

Numerous other studies mirror these findings, showing RLT enhanced the benefits of clinically implemented exercise regimes and increases muscle thickness, compared to training plans which lack RLT.

The scientific findings are clear; any exercise plan supplemented with RLT produces greater benefits in performance. These improvements have been seen across numerous forms of exercise including explosive cardio, weightlifting and stamina training.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27088469

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25417170

RLT reduces cartilage inflammation

RLT has been shown by many research groups to boost collagen production. In fact, the therapy is now being trialled and used to treat various forms of arthritis due to its beneficial effects on cartilage and joints.

Reduced cartilage inflammations mean we experience less joint pain and are less injury prone. Considering this, RLT is especially useful for anyone undertaking high impact exercise or sport – reducing the likelihood of sustaining an injury or post-workout joint pain.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19913903

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16503786

Reduces muscle damage, pain & promotes healing

Whether novice or pro, we’ve all experienced that post-gym muscle ache. A little muscle ache is to be expected when building fitness. However, the pain associated with pushing ourselves hard in the gym can actually prevent us from following our training regime and set us back with regards to our fitness goals.

Various studies have highlighted that individuals with an RLT-supplemented workout program have improved endurance and are less likely to suffer injury. In fact, many scientists have noted that participants seem to experience less post-work out pain, allowing them to perform consistently at each training session.

When we do sustain an injury, RLT may be able to get us back on track at a much quicker pace compared to normal recovery methods. RLT well recognised for its wound healing properties. In fact, a 2014 study showed that RLT stimulates the production of new cells which speeds up the muscle recovery and healing process.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4148276/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23672326

Take away

RLT is a non-invasive treatment which can benefit anyone looking to increase athletic performance and attain their fitness goals. RLT provides a range of physiological benefits and, so far, there have been no reported negative side effects.

RLT devices are readily available on the commercial market and the therapy can be performed at home. For best results, experts suggest implementing RLT prior to exercise.

Whether looking to build muscle, gain stamina or simply start your fitness journey, adding RLT into your routine could provide you with a welcome boost!

Muscle mass, reduced fatigue, better recovery, reduced inflammation:

Reduces pain: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19913903

Reduced inflammation specific: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16503786

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