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Smile! Laugh! It’s Good for You!

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Wellness related image Photo: Getty Images

As I sat at my computer this morning, grumbling about the work I needed to finish today, a sanitation truck drove by my window and the driver was laughing his head off about who knows what.

I couldn’t tell whether he had a passenger or maybe he’d heard something hilarious on the radio. The point was that he was having a big ol’ belly laugh despite the less than terrific job he had ahead of him.

The truth is -- the act of laughing stretches the muscles in your face and body, making your pulse and blood pressure go up, then you breathe faster and send more oxygen to your tissues. Many researchers feel it can resemble a mild workout.

"The effects of laughter and exercise are very similar," says Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, a psychologist and laugh therapist. "Combining laughter and movement, like waving your arms, is a great way to boost your heart rate."

Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, conducted a small study proving that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories. Something would have to be pretty funny to make us laugh that long, but it sounds like more fun than the drudgery of a workout, doesn’t it?

Give us a smile.

We’ve all heard the expression, smile till it hurts, but it takes a lot of smiling to actually hurt. Besides, smiling make you appear younger, so if you’re a baby boomer like me, you’ll want to put a big grin on your face every day.

"Although age estimates can often be based on multiple cues, there are many situations in which a picture of a person's face is the only information that is immediately available," researcher Manuel C. Voelkle of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, and colleagues write.

"In particular, with the rise of private- or business-related social networks like Facebook, flickr, LinkedIn, and many others, it has become common practice to share pictures, often without additional background information."

The bottom line is that smiling and laughing improves the quality of life, and while many women don’t like to see laugh lines on their face, frown lines are even less attractive. And remember, smiling makes you look younger.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.