Feeling stressed and need a good workout, but can’t make it to the gym today? No worries — just have yourself a good laugh.
Laughing won’t tone your thighs or shape your buttocks, but it can stimulate your heart, lungs and several other muscles, many studies show.
Laughter also reduces stress by releasing endorphins to the brain and stimulating your circulation to relieve tension, reports the Mayo Clinic.
After what might be called belly laughter — an exhilarating giggle session where you simply can’t regain your composure until you are physically exhausted — afterward you probably felt as if you’d completed an energetic aerobic exercise session.
During, and shortly after your fit of mirth, you may have felt your stomach muscles tighten and then stretch and relax, your heart speed up, and tears stream down your face. You may feel winded.
“The body's response to repetitive laughter is similar to the effect of repetitive exercise," said study researcher, Lee S. Berk of Loma Linda University in a 2010 press statement. Berk, DrPH, MPH, a preventive care specialist and psychoneuroimmunologist has studied the healing powers of laughter for more than 30 years.
In 2009, Berk teamed with Stanley Tan, MD, PhD, an endocrinologist and diabetes specialist at Oak Crest Health Research Institute in Loma Linda, California to study “mirthful laughter” as a preventative complementary therapy for diabetes care.
In the study, 20 high-risk diabetic patients with hypertension and hyperlipidemia were divided into two groups and received the same standard care, but one group viewed self-selected humor for 30 minutes daily.
The group experiencing the daily laugh raised their good cholesterol and lowered inflammation.
By the second month of the study, the laughter group had lower stress levels and inflammation, and had increased their good (HDL) cholesterol compared to the non-laughter group.
Additionally, the authors concluded that mirthful laughter “may thus lower the risk of cardiovascular disease associated with diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome,” the study stated.