Is laughter the new cardio?

Is laughter the new cardio?

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It's often said that laughter is the best medicine, but is it as good as a session in the gym? Personal trainer Andrew Cate makes the case for laughing out loud.

The health benefits of laughter

Health is not often thought of as a laughing matter. But when you see clowns in children's hospitals, or comedians visiting troupes in war zones, there must be something to it, right?

The serious side to laughter

A study conducted at the University of Nashville examined the changes in heart rate and kilojoule expenditure during laughter. 

Participants in the study watched funny and not-so-funny video clips while having their energy and heart monitored. The researchers discovered that when they were laughing along with the funny clips, participants experienced a 10 – 20% increase in energy expenditure and heart rate during episodes of laughter compared to being at rest. 

The researchers compared this response with other activities, and determined that 15 minutes of laughter is the rough equivalent of walking half to one kilometre. 

So not a replacement for other forms of exercise, but rather a welcome addition that can boost health and burn a few extra kilojoules.

Laugh out loud

Why you should laugh out loud

In addition to the sheer joy it brings, laughter is also associated with a range of benefits for the body, mind and soul, many of which are similar to how the body responds to exercise, including:
  • Forces the lungs inhale and exhale rapidly, increasing the level of oxygen in the blood
  • Triggers numerous muscle contractions which boosts circulation and supports healthy blood pressure
  • Burns extra kilojoules, increasing energy expenditure by up to 20%
  • Releases endorphins that may act as a natural pain killer
  • Releases endorphins which elevates mood and makes you feel good
  • Laughing with others can boost your social skills and improve your interpersonal relationships
  • Improved circulation and oxygenation of the blood may improve memory, and boost creativity