Shining light on women's legs while exercising could boost
brittle bones and banish cellulite

Shining light on a woman’s legs while she exercises could help reduce the risk of brittle bones, according to a Brazilian study.

The scientists used infrared light on the thighs and buttocks of post-menopausal women, and found this reduced the loss of bone mass associated with osteoporosis.

The one-year study, conducted at the Federal University of Sao Carlos in Brazil, looked at 20 post-menopausal women, aged between 50 and 60, none of whom were taking hormone replacement therapy or suffering from any other medical conditions. They were divided into two groups of ten.

Light fantastic: Women exposed to infrared light while exercising had a reduced loss of bone mass, a recent study found

Light fantastic: Women exposed to infrared light while exercising had a reduced loss of bone mass, a recent study found

The first group exercised on a treadmill twice a week for 45 minutes while being exposed to infrared light, the second followed the same exercise regimen, but without the light.

Two aluminium plates, each containing 2,000 light-emitting diodes that gave off infrared light, were fitted to each side of a gym treadmill to direct the light towards the target area.

Bone density examinations carried out before and after the research showed that women in the group who had exercised regularly, but without exposure to infrared light, had lost significant mass (2.5 per cent) in the thigh bone over the 12 months.

But the women who exercised while being exposed to infrared radiation had no such bone loss. The scientists concluded this indicates the combination of physical stimulation and infrared light aids bone formation through a phenomenon known as ‘the piezoelectric effect’.

This occurs where an electrical charge is generated in the bone, due to the stress from pressure or vibration, in this case via exercising muscles. The electrical charge attracts bone-building cells, called osteoblasts, into the area, encouraging bone growth.

The researchers believe infrared radiation increases the size of the effect. They also noted a reduction in cellulite. Thermal images of the women in the infrared group revealed dark areas indicating an increase in skin temperature and a widening of the blood vessels.

According to the researchers, this indicates ‘an improvement in blood circulation and an increase in oxygen in the muscles’, which contributed to a visible ‘reduction in cellulite and an improvement in the “orange peel” aspect of the skin’ in the infrared group. These findings were published in the Journal Of Cosmetic And Laser Therapy.

The uneven skin surface of cellulite occurs due to fat deposits distorting connective tissues. The researchers say improved blood flow stimulated by the infrared light may help break up these deposits.

Patrick Mallucci, a consultant plastic surgeon at University College London and Royal Free Hospitals and a member of the British Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons, cautioned that larger studies are needed.

‘It’s encouraging that people are looking at different treatments. But it needs studies on a bigger group.’

A spokesman for the National Osteoporosis Society said: ‘No previous research has suggested the proposed benefits. Further work would be needed to confirm the significance of the new findings in this interesting, but very small, study.’