There are a lot of benefits to laughter. It helps strengthen your immune system. It can make you feel better, bringing you up when your down in the dumps. It can heal your heart - both emotionally and physically. And laughter can even reduce your stress levels. But as it turns out, science has only yet to scratch the surface of what laughter can really do for you.
Laughter is the best medicine. But it's also the best weight loss drug, too. Studies have shown that you can actually laugh your way to a slimmer waistline and a healthier life. Which sounds a lot easier than sweating off the pounds on the treadmill!
A study conducted at Loma Linda University showed participants 20 minutes of comedies and stand-up routines. Afterwards, a series of health tests were run on the subjects. No joke, the results of the health tests were "overwhelmingly positive."
Every participant had a drop in blood pressure, cholesterol and stress hormones. Dr. Berk, who conducted the study, concluded that laughter had a lot of positive health benefits and referred to laughing as "internal jogging." So if you want to reduce your cholesterol, you can still eat eggs as long as you laugh while you're doing it, right?
"The body’s response to repetitive laughter is similar to the effect of repetitive exercise. As the old biblical wisdom states, it may indeed be true that laughter is a good medicine," said Dr.Berk who conducted the study. So does that mean we can cancel our gym membership? Please say yes.
Dr. Berk also studied the benefits of laughter in diabetic heart patients. At the end of the year-long study, Dr. Berk found that those patients who watched TV comedies every day needed less blood pressure medication than those who didn't. Woo hoo! Science says watching TV is good for us!
Laughing can also burn off calories. Dr. Helen Pilcher, a UK-based neuroscientist who also works as a comedian, found that "strong laughter" for one hour burns off the amount of calories in a small bag of chips or a chocolate bar. In other words, an hour of laughter can burn off the same amount of calories that you burn off in half an hour of weightlifting. Looks like we've found a new fitness routine!
Don't tell your personal trainer to shove off just yet. "We're not advocating you watch sitcoms 24 hours a day, but laughing away excess Christmas weight is a great way to stay in shape," said Dr. Pilcher. "But you've got to avoid the temptation of consuming extra calories whilst you are laughing - chomping on a Kit Kat or supping a quick half whilst watching your favorite sitcom."
Another study conducted by Dr. Maciej Buchowski found that laughing for 15 minutes increases the heart rate up to 20%, and it raises the body's energy expenditure. This could help you burn an additional 10 to 40 calories a day, or about 40 pounds a year. Hey, we'll take it where we can get it!
Dr. Buchowski and his colleagues at Vanderbilt University put 45 friends into a metabolic chamber and played them comedy clips to see how many calories were burned while laughing. "We didn't tell them that the goal of the study was to measure laughter, because then they might have forced it and forced laughter is regulated by a totally different part of the brain. We wanted it to be genuine laughter," said Dr. Buchowski. Honestly, that also sounds like the beginning of a weird horror movie.
The room was designed to allow the researchers to measure the oxygen intake and carbon dioxide, er, outtake of the subjects, which is considered the "gold standard" in measuring how much energy someone burns. The subjects also wore heart rate monitors so the researchers could see how laughter affected the heart rate. For good measure, the room was also equipped with microphones to record the laughter.
Turns out, laughter is good for you. "They burned 20 percent more calories when laughing, compared to not laughing," Dr. Buchowski said. "Then we calculated what would happen if somebody laughed for 10 or 15 minutes a day and we found that it was up to 50 calories, depending on your body size and the intensity of the laughter."
"People can't eat at McDonald's and then expect to laugh away their lunch," said Dr. Buchowski. But Dr. Buchowski says that "every calorie counts" in losing weight. Additionally, we're now closer to understanding how the human body burns energy. That's one small step for man, one giant leap for comedy fans!
Additionally, even if laughter doesn't directly burn calories, it helps your body get the job done. Laughter increases your heart rate and your metabolism, which in turn, helps you lose weight. So at the end of the day, you slim down and it doesn't suck as much as eating nothing but celery.