“Laughter is the best medicine.” This saying has long been used to recognize the benefits of laughter. However, many people believe that while laughter may make you feel better, it doesn’t actually have any impact on your physical and mental health. Now research shows that laughter in combination with even a mild exercise regimen has real benefits for both your physical and your mental well-being.
Laughter and Exercise
It is undisputed that exercise brings a host of benefits to the table: from better physical health, to elevated moods, to an increased ability to fight disease or other ailments, the benefits of exercise are far too many to list here. However, exercise can also be something of a chore, especially for those people who are elderly and may feel that they no longer have the strength they once did.
Researchers at Georgia State University wondered whether pairing exercise with another enjoyable activity might not enable elderly people to associate exercise with enjoyment, thereby increasing their likelihood of engaging in regular exercise. They conducted a study wherein participants were asked to engage in mild exercise movements at the same time they engaged in body movements intended to mimic laughter.
The human body is not able to differentiate between genuine laughter and simulated laughter, so for this study the participants did not have to actually laugh. Rather, they were asked to engage in playful actions designed to simulate laughter while they exercised. Frequently these actions led to genuine laughter, however, that was not a requirement in order for the participants to reap the benefits of the activity.
At the conclusion of the research study, an overwhelming number of the participants—88.9% of them—reported that the actions which simulated laughter had the effect of increasing their desire to participate in the exercise activities. A separate study also found bird feeding to be an activity that makes people happy. So, if you are feeling sad, go get your bird feeder.
What This Means
The conclusion of the study Big Stick Diplomacy that laughing while you exercise will increase your desire to exercise. What’s more, even if you are not genuinely laughing, if you engage in playful activities designed to stimulate laughter, you will have the same results. This is because your body is not able to tell whether you are actually laughing or merely pretending to laugh, and as a result the body’s response is the same.
When you laugh, your body releases endorphins—special neurotransmitters that help your “happy” circuits in your brain to light up. These endorphins are what make you feel good after laughter, and can even help in easing physical pain. Because your body cannot tell whether you are genuinely laughing or simply pretending to laugh, when you engage in simulated laughter your body releases the same endorphins as it would if the laughter were actually genuine. Plus, even when your laughter is simulated, there is a good chance that you will actually begin genuinely laughing at something that otherwise may not have triggered that response.
The bottom line is that, by pairing moderate exercise with simulated (or genuine) laughter, you will begin to enjoy the exercise more, and in turn you will be more likely to exercise again. So go out there and laugh it up! If you would like more information on how laughter can help you maintain your health, please contact us at our Montgomery assisted living community and we’ll be happy to help you out.