Laughter can keep you heart healthy
We all know that old saying, "Laughter is the best medicine," but is there really any truth behind it? Well, research has shown that laughter can actually have a beneficial effect on the body.
It's unclear whether the act of laughing itself makes us feel better, or if it's more to do with the influence that a good sense of humour and a positive attitude can have on our health. So, the question is, are we laughing enough? It's been reported that the average American child laughs 200 times per day, while adults only laugh a mere 15 times.
What happens when we laugh?
There's no doubt about it that laughter gives us a whole body workout causing the muscles in our face and body to stretch, our pulse and blood pressure go up, and we breathe faster, sending more oxygen to our tissues. It is also estimated that hearty laughter can burn calories equivalent to several minutes on the rowing machine or the exercise bike. William Fry, a laughter pioneer, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter.
Laughter's effect on our health
A study published in the American College of Cardiology found that laughing increased blood flow by more than 20%, a similar effect to that of aerobic activity, and decreased 35% during mental stress. The positive effect of laughing lasted for 30-45 minutes.
95% of the volunteers in the study had better blood flow after watching a comedy movie clip, with 70% having a worse blood flow after watching a stressful film sequence. Studies also have shown beneficial effects on the immune system, blood sugar levels in diabetes, and aiding relaxation and sleep.
Unfortunately, most studies on laughter have been small, and one of the biggest problems with this type of research is that it's very difficult to determine cause and effect. It can be likened to the "chicken/egg" scenario. For example, if we were to say, "People who laugh more are less likely to be sick," is this because they laugh more, or because they are healthy, and therefore more likely to laugh?
Check out this great video to find out more about how laughter is the key to a healthy heart. Regardless of whether science can absolutely prove that laughter benefits our health, we know that a hearty laugh improves our quality of life:
- Reducing stress
- Elevating mood
- Relaxing our muscles
- Connecting us with others
- Generally making us feel better
Create opportunities to laugh:
- Watch funny movies.
- Spend time with people who make you relaxed and enjoy yourself.
- Share the laughing experience with others by inviting them to tell you about their funny day/event/experience.
- Find humour in your life - rather than complaining about life's frustrations, try to laugh about them.
Melanie Thomassian is a dietitian and author of Dietriffic.com, an online resource for credible healthy eating tips for busy people.