Evidence Based Full-Body Red Light Therapy Dosage: The Real Data
With the surging popularity of "full-body" light therapy panels, the burning question is how to properly dose it?
Many panel manufacturers, authors, and blogs have tried to answer this question over the past couple of years, and they tend to get into a decent range.
However, these sources are always fatally flawed for the following reasons:
1. Most of the light panels they reference falsify their intensity advertising by over 2x based on Solar Power Meter Measurements. Obviously you can never follow a proper dosage protocol based on inaccurate measurements.
2. The clinical studies referenced typically use laser parameters. A small targeted laser treatment is going to have VERY different dosage guidelines than a large coverage panel. However, even a 20mW laser with a 0.2cm^2 spot size can mathematically give us 100mW/cm^2, which is why laser studies are cherry-picked to reinforce this magical intensity claim, which would lead to skin overheating if used in a large full-body LED panel.
3. Most clinical studies use skin contact to avoid reflection losses. If a "full-body" panel advises being 6 inches away, then it creates the opportunity to lose a lot of effectiveness by simply bouncing off of the skin.
Most manufacturers, bloggers, and authors are ignorant of these issues and think that they can apply these flawed concepts to a large panel treatment.
Luckily, red light therapy is SO effective that many times people get good results despite these massive errors in calculating dosage.
In order to increase the knowledge of light therapy and help more people, we need to start to study the full-body dosages that seem to work the best!
So we want to do the obvious thing here to understand proper full-body dosage.
1. Look at ACTUAL full-body light studies. Not laser or small-coverage studies.
2. Relate these numbers to accurate intensity measurements! Don't be tricked by high intensity advertisements based on solar power meters.
3. Be mindful that reflection losses might be a big factor in some situations.
Can you apply the same dosage protocol from a laser study to a full body panel? Certainly not, due to the obvious differences in treatments.
Peer-reviewed full-body light therapy studies:
Study #1: Full-Body Light Therapy for Skin Improvements 
- Group 1: 42.8mW/cm^2 for 20 min and 51.4 J/cm^2 dose.
- Group 2: 54.8mW/cm^2 for 15 min and 49.3 J/cm^2 dose.
- Group 3: 10.3mW/cm^2 for 25 min and 15.5 J/cm^2 dose.
- Group 4: 23.4mW/cm^2 for 12 min and 16.8 J/cm^2 dose.
- This study used polychromatic light (not LED or laser) with appropriate filters for the Red to NIR range of 570nm to 850nm.
- All groups seemed to show a similar improvement in skin features.
- Treatments were twice a week for 30 total treatments (15 week study).
Study #2: Full-Body Light Therapy for Sleep and Athletic Performance 
- 658nm Red LED light therapy for 30 min and 30 J/cm^2
- Calculated intensity is 16.6 mW/cm^2.
- Used to improve sleep and athletic recovery for 14 consecutive days including athletic training.
Study #3: Full-Body Light Therapy (via LightStim bed) for Cardiovascular Health 
- The study had users lay on the LightStim bed for 30 minutes. The study does not tell us the dose or intensity of the light.
- The study included heat + light in this trial, and they suspect some of the benefits are contributed by the heat effects of the LightStim bed.
- In a recent online PBM summit, it is revealed that LightStim emits 13.05 mW/cm^2. 
- This means we can calculate the dose of 23.49 J/cm^2 for 30 minutes.
- The study was successful in two-thirds of the patients in showing that blood pressure is lowered after following the treatment protocol.
- This particular treatment protocol split the light dosage in half to try to separate the heat and light effects. But a total treatment time of 30 minutes per session still happened on the bed.
Study #4: Full-Body Light Therapy (via Joovv Elite panel system) for Athletic Recovery 
- The study had users stand in front of the Joovv Elite panels for treatment.
- The participants stood at 30cm (about 12 inches) away from the panel.
- Treatment time was only 5 minuites (2.5 min front and back).
- Intensity was 46.17 mW/cm^2 and dose was 6.9 J/cm^2.
- The study found no significant improvement for the treatment group in the measured biomarkers.
Study #5: Full-Body Light Therapy (via NovoThor pod system) for Athletic Recovery 
- The study had users lay in the NovoThor pod for treatment.
- They laid in the NovoThor pod for 15 minutes.
- The intensity for the study was 17mW/cm^2 and dose was 25 J/cm^2
- The study found no significant improvement for the treatment group compared to controls in the measured biomarkers.
Study #6: Full-Body Red Light Therapy (via undisclosed device) for Skincare, Wrinkles, Collagen 
- The intensity for the study was 10.3 to 24.3mW/cm^2 and dose was 15.5 to 16.8 J/cm^2 at 25min for the lower intensity and 12min for the higher intensity.
- The study found improvement in all of the skincare markers compared to controls.
Study #7: Full-Body Red Light Therapy for Athletic Recovery and Sleep 
- The study used the NovoThor full body bed for 20 minutes, 12 mW/cm^2 for each of 660nm and 850nm (total intensity of 24 mW/cm^2).
- Athletes were monitored with an OURA ring for sleep statistics.
- On days the the PBMT was used, there was 40 minutes reduced sleep, reduced heart rate while sleeping, and increased HRV during sleep.
Study #8: Full-Body Light Therapy for Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) via NovoThor pod 
- Study is completed and published as of October 23rd 2022!
- Used the NovoThor pod for 20 minutes and desired dose of 25.2 J/cm^2
- This paper states the intensity of the pod is 0.028 W/cm^2 (28mW/cm^2)
- Treatments were given 3 times per week for 4 weeks (12 sessions total)
- Results were positive in reducing symptoms and tracked blood markers.
- Note: the math of this dose does not match up for some reason.
Study #9: Full-body Light Therapy for Long Covid Brain Fog via NovoThor pod 
- Used 660/850nm at 24mW/cm^2 for 14 minute treatments, 3 times a week for 4 weeks.
- Participants showed improvement in their symptoms, performing slightly better than a separate group that used a transcranial PBM helmet.
Study #10: Whole Body Photobiomodulation for Exercise Recovery via NovoThor pod 
- Used 660/850nm at 28mW/cm^2 for 20 minute treatments immediately before doing anaerobic cycling.
- Researchers found improved recovery and HRV from treatment, but the PBM did not improve athletic performance.
Study #10: Full-Body Light Therapy for Pain via NovoThor pod 
- This is a study protocol that is not yet completed.
- Will use the NovoThor pod for 20 minutes and desired dose of 33.6 J/cm^2
- This paper states the intensity of the pod is 0.028 W/cm^2 (28mW/cm^2)
- Note: the math of this dose does match up this time.
That's it! After exhaustive searching we have only found 9 actual studies on "full-body" red light therapy.
That is only 10 studies out of over 7,000 peer-reviewed articles on red light therapy!
In fact, the latest study notes that most Photobiomodulation studies are indeed conducted with targeted treatments, not whole body. And there is obviously a lot more research that is needed to learn how to properly use whole body red light therapy. 
So how can all of these manufacturers claim to have a fancy "clinical grade" LED panel? How can they claim clinical benefits if full-body light therapy hasn't been studied extensively? How do they even know if full-body light therapy is safe for long-term use? How can they extrapolate that >100mW/cm^2 is the "best" intensity even though it has never been studied for full-body red light therapy?
Real World Full-Body light data:
With minimal clinical data, we look at two more popular examples. These two companies have been successfully marketing full-body light therapy for years, and are widely considered the leaders of the full-body industry. So their relative success in marketing light therapy is an important data point, even if it isn't yet in a peer-reviewed study.
- Based on their 3rd party data on their website, we can calculate they emit 33.75mW/cm^2 intensity at 6 inches away (2nd Generation Solo Panel).
- The general recommendation is 10-15 minutes at 4-6 inches away.
- For 10 minutes and 6 inches away we calculate you get about 20.4 J/cm^2 per session.
- In a recent online summit, James Carroll revealed the intensity of the Novothor at 28.34mW/cm^2. 
- Some sources indicate that they used the Novothor pods for athletic recovery at the Olympic games with a protocol of 12 minutes three times a week.
- At 28.34mW/cm^2 for 12 minutes we calculate 20.4 J/cm^2.
Interestingly, we get the same dose of about 20.4 J/cm^2 from both of these products! Perhaps this is not simply a coincidence and there is some congruence in dosage targets.
Here is a summary of the "full-body" data we found:
|Study #1 High Power Group (average)||
|48.8 mW/cm^2||17.5 min||51.24 J/cm^2|
|Study #1 Low Power Group (average)||
|16.85 mW/cm^2||18.5 min||18.70 J/cm^2|
|Study#2||658nm||16.6 mW/cm^2||30 min||30 J/cm^2|
|Study#3 (LightStim)||630nm+660nm +855nm+940nm||13.05 mW/cm^2||30 min||23.49 J/cm^2|
(Joovv Elite Panel, 2nd Gen)
|660nm + 850nm||46.17 mW/cm^2||5 min||6.9 J/cm^2|
|Study#5 (NovoThor Pod)||660nm + 850nm||17 mW/cm^2||15 min||25 J/cm^2|
|Study #7 (NovoThor Pod)||660nm + 850nm||28 mW/cm^2||20 min||25.2 J/cm^2|
|Study #6||Broad Spectrum Red-NIR||10.3 - 24.3 mW/cm^2||12-25 min||15.5 to 16.8 J/cm^2|
Joovv Solo and Elite
|660nm + 850nm||33.75 mW/cm^2||10 min||20.4 J/cm^2|
|Novothor||660nm + 850nm||28.34 mW/cm^2||12 min||20.4 J/cm^2|
*Note: we do realize we have 3 different numbers for NovoThor parameters, and the reported dose often does not mathematically align with the intensity and time.
From this summary we see most of the studies range in 16 to 50 mW/cm^2, 10 to 30 minutes, and 18 to 51 J/cm^2.
For lower intensities of 13 to 16 mW/cm^2 it is preferable to do longer times of 18 to 30 minutes.
For higher intensities of around 30 mW/cm^2 we see times closer to 10-20 minutes.
Despite variations in intensity and time, we generally see a popular full-body dosage is around 20 J/cm^2!
The Myth of 100mW/cm^2:
This may be surprising to some people, but none of these full-body studies or brands emit 100mW/cm^2 at the treatment distance! This myth has been perpetuated in the industry for a long time. Some companies were claiming that you NEED 100mW/cm^2 to be effective. Well maybe that is true for laser treatments, but clearly it is not necessary for full-body light therapy. In fact, it would be gross over-use for 100mW/cm^2 to engulf the entire body!
We find that a reasonable range for "full-body" red light therapy is between 16 to 50mW/cm^2 and 10 to 30 minutes. A popular dose is 20 J/cm^2. Sticking within this range and dose target can help make sure full-body treatments are being used appropriately.
Most dosing protocols seem to happen at a repetition of 2 to 3 times per week. Study #2 was done every day for 14 consecutive days.  There have not yet been any long-term studies for the usage of full-body panels.
We recommend being wary of companies claiming >100mW/cm^2. They are likely misrepresenting their actual power. If they actually emitted such a high intensity, it could cause quick overdosing or cause heat effects if applied to the whole body.
So far the highest intensity data point we have for full-body light therapy is only 54.8mW/cm^2! How can we know the relative safety and effectiveness if we were to double or triple the intensity from these protocols? Could we simply cut the treatment time in half? It doesn't always work that way. There seems to be a reason why all of these protocols are at least 10 minutes long.
Make sure to search for companies with honest and accurate intensity that give reasonable dosage recommendations. If they are recommending a high power to simply "save time" then they are probably ignoring the science and proper measurement techniques.
Disclaimer: All information in this article and website are intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, or cure any ailment. Please consult with your doctor or trusted wellness practitioner before starting any new health activity including Red Light Therapy.
Zhao J, Tian Y, Nie J, Xu J, Liu D. Red light and the sleep quality and endurance performance of Chinese female basketball players. J Athl Train. 2012;47(6):673-678. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-47.6.08
Z. Marcinkevics, Dz. Briljonoks, H. Kronberga, and J. Spigulis "LED-bed therapy of cardiovascular disorders: a volunteer study", Proc. SPIE 11221, Mechanisms of Photobiomodulation Therapy XV, 112210R (11 March 2020);
James Carroll Interview within the:
"BRAIN + TRANSCRANIAL PHOTOBIOMODULATION THERAPY VIRTUAL SUMMIT"
Zagatto AM, Dutra YM, Lira FS, Antunes BM, Faustini JB, Malta ES, Lopes VHF, de Poli RAB, Brisola GMP, Dos Santos GV, Rodrigues FM, Ferraresi C. Full Body Photobiomodulation Therapy to Induce Faster Muscle Recovery in Water Polo Athletes: Preliminary Results. Photobiomodul Photomed Laser Surg. 2020 Dec;38(12):766-772. doi: 10.1089/photob.2020.4803. PMID: 33332232.
Ghigiarelli JJ, Fulop AM, Burke AA, Ferrara AJ, Sell KM, Gonzalez AM, Pelton LM, Zimmerman JA, Coke SG, Marshall DG. The Effects of Whole-Body Photobiomodulation Light-Bed Therapy on Creatine Kinase and Salivary Interleukin-6 in a Sample of Trained Males: A Randomized, Crossover Study. Front Sports Act Living. 2020 Apr 29;2:48. doi: 10.3389/fspor.2020.00048. PMID: 33345040; PMCID: PMC7739664.
*Completed Trial Citation:
Navarro-Ledesma S, Gonzalez-Muñoz A, Carroll J, Burton P. Short- and long-term effects of whole-body photobiomodulation on pain, functionality, tissue quality, central sensitisation and psychological factors in a population suffering from fibromyalgia: protocol for a triple-blinded randomised clinical trial. Therapeutic Advances in Chronic Disease. January 2022. doi:10.1177/20406223221078095
Fitzmaurice B, Heneghan NR, Rayen A, Soundy A. Whole-body photobiomodulation therapy for chronic pain: a protocol for a feasibility trial. BMJ Open. 2022 Jun 29;12(6):e060058. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2021-060058. PMID: 35768101; PMCID: PMC9244683.
Wunsch A, Matuschka K. A controlled trial to determine the efficacy of red and near-infrared light treatment in patient satisfaction, reduction of fine lines, wrinkles, skin roughness, and intradermal collagen density increase. Photomed Laser Surg. 2014 Feb;32(2):93-100. doi: 10.1089/pho.2013.3616. Epub 2013 Nov 28. PMID: 24286286; PMCID: PMC3926176.