You know you feel better after a good laugh and laughter has long been associated with happiness and emotional release, but studies now suggest that a good gut-busting can also be good for your health. In fact, there is growing evidence suggesting that laughter boasts a wide range of health and fitness benefits, including everything from stress relief to blood flow.
Seriously, no joke intended … studies have found that laughter therapy is a viable form of cardiovascular exercise, powerfully working the body’s heart and lungs in the same fashion that a rowing machine or exercise bike might work.
Take stress for example. We know untreated stress is a precursor and risk factor for many disease processes including high blood pressure, heart disease, and various cancers. However, laughter really can elevate your mood and diminish the potential ill effects of a stressful or depressing day and help alleviate anxiety too. What’s more, scientists say that the body can’t actually differentiate between real and fake laughter so if you’re feeling down, a fake chuckle could still trigger feelings of happiness and hormones in your brain and help reduce potential illness.
Laughter also burns calories. As well as relieving stress, laughter offers an even better punch, it burns excess calories. Early research suggests that a strenuous, one-minute laugh can burn as many calories as 10 minutes on a rowing machine or bike. And if you laugh a lot, remember 3,500 calories equals 1 pound of fat.
Laughing has also been shown to boost blood flow. Studies have found that laughing can raise the flow of blood in the body by as much as 22 percent, because the heart and lungs work harder to supply oxygen to key muscles. As well as boosting blood flow, relaxed arteries also help regulate blood pressure at normal levels.
Need more convincing? How about a healthy immune system? Laughing has been linked to strong immune system function as well. While it may be too soon to tell if we can stop taking our vitamins, help is at hand if you’re willing to lighten and not take everything quite so seriously. A quick dose of laughter can significantly boost the immune system of even the most resistant skeptics. Research has found that the body’s level of killer cells, essential in attacking viruses and cancers, increase significantly after a good giggle. In contrast, these killer cells are reduced during lengthy periods of stress. So if you want to stay healthy and free of disease, it might be time for you to laugh.