We’ve heard for years that laughter is healthy; that a hearty, gut-busting guffaw can only be good for you.
Our blood pressure and pulse rate go up. We stretch muscles everywhere, from face to rib cage to abs when we laugh. And we increase our oxygen intake. Sounds a lot like exercise, right? Indeed.
In fact, several researchers found that laughter may be as beneficial as a light workout. Laughter research pioneer William Fry compared 10 minutes on a rowing machine to one minute of hearty laughter and found that his heart rate was the same during both activities.
So don’t burn your gym card just yet. Laughter may be one of the best ways to lose weight. Vanderbilt University researcher Maciej Buchowski discovered that 10 to 15 minutes of hearty har hars can actually burn 50 calories!
And laughter provides other known benefits worth their weight in comic books. Stress reduction is at the very top of the list. Stress is one of the side effects of modern life we are constantly being told to reduce. Stress causes depression, adverse chemical changes in the body, negative immune response, and can have devastating effects on our health long term. Laughter reduces stress by clamping down on the release of stress hormones like cortisol while increasing the release of neuropeptides and endorphins.
Blood pressure goes down after a good long laugh. That’s good news for all of us, especially those in high-risk categories for stroke or heart attack. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of adults in the United States today. You have to smile when you hear that laughter may in some small way actually chip away at that statistic.
Laughter also causes an immediate release of T-cells, disease fighters summoned by our bodies for everything from a common cold to much more serious ailments. So turn on the Comedy Channel the next time you’re under the weather, it just may rouse these miraculous little fighters.
It’s long been known that patients with a positive outlook respond better to treatments and fight disease harder than those who are more negative. It is difficult to quantify in the absolute, but people who laugh a lot generally have a greater sense of well-being and a brighter, sunnier outlook on life.
So, is laughter the best medicine? Let’s say instead that it is undeniably good medicine. And if given the choice, choose to laugh. It certainly can’t hurt and most indications are that it will certainly help.