Want an exercise that burns calories, relaxes muscles, boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, relieves pain, decreases negative thinking and eases depression and anxiety symptoms?
That’s a laugh!
No, really…laughter does all of these things.
Laughing for about 15 minutes a day burns as many as 40 calories. One minute of laughing burns the same number of calories as 6 to 10 minutes on a treadmill.
Studies show laughter relaxes muscles for up to 45 minutes and lowers blood pressure.
And while an apple a day helps keep the doctor away, laughter boosts immunity—a sure way to ward off the need for a physician.
Laughter also stimulates the release of “happiness hormones” called endorphins. Endorphins cause euphoric feelings and relieve pain. Endorphins are part of the cause of “runner’s high”.
Laughter Provides Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Benefits
The Admiral at the Lake Fitness Coordinator Donna Lakinger adds that laughter offers numerous physical, mental, emotional and spiritual advantages. They include:
- Boosts the immune system
- Decreases stress hormones
- Increases dopamine and endorphins
- Increases respiration
- Reduces pain
- Cardiac exercise
- Lowers blood pressure
- Relaxes muscles
- Lowers blood sugar after a meal, especially important for diabetes
- Improves digestion
- Creates clarity
- Improves focus
- Increases creativity
- Builds confidence
- Improves alertness
- Increases attention span
- Improves mental processing
- Improves problem solving
- Releases worry
- Releases attachments
- Increases acceptance
- Opens the body position
- Improves attitude
- Lifts morale
- Leads to a more developed sense of humor
- Relieves depression and anxiety
- Heightens forgiveness
- Raises levels of connectedness and appreciation
- Increases willingness to receive
- Puts you more in touch with inner spirit
- Improves sensory awareness of the body
- Increases outward focus and awareness of others
- Inspires creativity
Laughter Can Really Help Older Adults
As with many things, the effects of laughter are even more important for the wellness of older adults. Older adults are more likely to suffer from depression, and laughter alleviates depression and anxiety and promotes a positive attitude. Laughter’s immunity-boosting effects prevent illness, which further weakens the immune system. Laughter helps sedentary adults by increasing circulation and stimulating all the body’s symptoms.
Laughter truly may help older adults keep the doctor—medical and psychological—away.
The health aspects of laughter so inspired Donna that she became certified and began conducting classes in laughter yoga a few years ago.
Laughter Yoga Generates Laughter and More
“Laughter yoga is done in a group setting where eye contact and a childlike playfulness stimulate the laughter. There are no jokes, no comedy, and a sense of humor is not required. It is laughter for no reason,” she describes.
Laughter yoga provides the benefits of laughter and yoga. Laughter yoga, because it is a group activity, reduces isolation. Isolation may impair cognition, compromise the immune system and increase the risk of vascular, inflammatory and heart disease for older adults.
Laughter yoga is especially beneficial for older adults, because laughing together fosters better communication, which leads to less confrontation and reduced stress, notes Laughter Online University.
Donna acknowledges that one question she’s frequently asked is, “What if I can’t laugh?” She answers, “Fake it ‘til you make it! It is a scientific fact that fake laughter has the same physiological and biochemical benefits as genuine laughter. You may begin with fake laughter; yet, through the contagious nature of the activity, genuine laughter is formed. Statistics show that people are 30 times more likely to laugh in the presence of others than just by themselves.”
Other Ways to Laugh
Laughter yoga is not the only way to laugh more. Dr. Pamela Gerloff urges all adults to increase their “laughter quota”. One way, she notes, is to hang around children, who laugh much more frequently than adults.
Other methods to add laughter to your wellness routine include:
- Resolve to laugh more.
- Start your day off with laughter by going to YouTube and checking out a laughter video. This one that begins with a baby’s infectious laughter is sure to get you going.
- Smile more. Smiling makes it easier to laugh.
- Go to a comedy show or watch a comedian on TV, YouTube or a subscriber service.
Perhaps comedian Milton Berle, who took his shtick to the stars at the age of 93, had it right when he said, “I live to laugh, and I laugh to live.”
Donna Lakinger is the fitness coordinator at Chicago’s The Admiral at The Lake, guiding a program she developed specifically for residents. A personal trainer and health coach, she has more than a decade of experience working with people of ALL ages (up to 103!). Throughout that time, she has coached, encouraged, and helped hundreds of seniors and older adults navigate their health journey. Donna has a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and a bachelor’s degree in Health Studies and is Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified, an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, an ACE Certified Group Fitness Instructor and Senior Fitness Certified.Get fit with Donna in the pool or fitness center at The Admiral at the Lake. Contact us today!