If you want to improve your mental health, aerobic endurance and your confidence levels all you have to do is laugh at yourself! Seems simple enough right? A new study from the Georgia State University found that adding laughter into a workout regime made people feel happier overall, helped them enjoy the gym more, and increase their commitment to the habit of exercising.
The study called "Evaluation of a Laughter-based Exercise Program on Health and Self-Efficacy for Exercise" wanted to see how stimulated laughter exercises would contribute to a moderate-intensity strength, balance and flexibility training program for older adults who live in assisted living facilities.
This theory of voluntary laughter being good for your health isn't necesarily new. Hasya Yoga has been around for a long time which involves self-initiated laughter done in a group that turns from a simulated "fake" laugh into a genuine laugh as it goes on. This study is one of the first to look at laughter as a key element in a finely-tuned physical activity program.
Apparently all you need is ten minutes of laughter to trigger some of the mental benefits.
Any type of laughter stimulates diaphragmatic breathing, activates the parasympathetic nervous system, and triggers the "tend-and-befriend" response linked to healthy tone in your vagus nerve. Just ten minutes of laughter is sufficient to trigger mental and physical health benefits. - Psychology Today
The study was trying to prove that your body can't tell the difference of fake laughter vs a real laugh so the health benefits would be the same. They used a program called LaughActive which incorporates laughter with strength, balance and flexibility exercises. There seems to be a chain reaction that starts with the forced laughter that slowly transitions into real laughter as the silliness of the exercise sets in. After the study was complete the surveys showed that 96% of participants found the laughter enjoyable, 89% found laughter made the exercise more accessible and 88% found it increased their motivation to continue exercising in other classes and activities.
The researchers were able to link the laughter based exercises to a lower rate of heart disease, some cancers, anxiety, depression, type 2 diabetes and more.
"The combination of laughter and exercise may influence older adults to begin exercising and to stick with the program. Laughter is an enjoyable activity and it carries with it so many health benefits, so we incorporated intentional laughter into this program to put the fun in fitness for older adults." Celeste Greene, lead author of the study.
So go get laughing while you are at the gym! It will make it a lot more fun and make your hours at the gym even more beneficial. You might also become that start of a contagious laugh chain that will make others enjoy the same benefits!