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Is Laughter Really the Best Medicine?

Laughter-Based Exercise: A Way to Boost Mental Health

Researchers at Georgia State University recently discovered that laughter-based exercise programs can have health benefits for older adults :

“Incorporating laughter into a physical activity program that is focused on strength, balance and flexibility could improve older adults' mental health, aerobic endurance and confidence in their ability to exercise.”

If you don't know what laughter-based exercise is or how it works, you aren't alone. Keep reading to learn more about the evidence behind these claims, plus information on how you can incorporate laughter into your exercise routine.

What is laughter-based exercise?

In the study, the participants were part of an exercise program called LaughActive, which combines “playful simulated laughter” with working out.

The workouts focused on strength, balance, and flexibility, and also on making eye contact and engaging in “playful behaviors” with other exercisers. Eventually, the laughter turned from simulated to real.

However, our bodies can't actually tell the difference between “real” and “fake” laughter, and that's one of the reasons this type of exercise can be so effective. Even if you aren't authentically laughing at first, that could change as you progress through your workout.

How does laugher-based exercise work?

You could incorporate laughter into your exercise routine in a number of ways. In the study, the participants completed a 45-minute exercise routine two times per week.

There were 8 to 10 laughter exercises, and each lasted between 30 to 60 seconds. Laughter helps with physical fitness because it helps strengthen and relax muscles, especially when you're using those muscles in exercise.

Health benefits of laughter-based exercise

Wondering about the specific health benefits? The study participants experienced large improvements in their:

  • Overall mental health

  • Aerobic endurance

  • Realistic expectations about the outcomes of exercise

Mental health benefits of exercising

Speaking of mental health, 96.2% of the participants thought that laughter added an enjoyable element to exercising. Nearly 90% felt that laughter helped exercise feel more accessible to them, and nearly 89% found that the laughter-based program gave them an increased desire to try other activities.

So, it's probably no surprise to read that exercise has plenty of mental health benefits, no matter how old or how young you are. When you exercise, you'll :

Not to mention, you might find your confidence increasing as your fitness levels improve. That confidence could stem from your appearance, but try to focus on other things you can feel good about. Increased strength, longer-lasting endurance, and mastery of new skills can all give you something to smile about.

And remember, getting started is easy — go through the motions of laughing a few times during your next workout, even if it's just a smile and a chuckle. You might be surprised by how much laughter boosts your mood.