Laughing is not only an emotional response to something funny, but it exercises a number of muscles in your body. In addition to fifteen muscles in your face, you’ll be working your abdomen, back and shoulders when you chuckle. But don’t count on a good laugh alone to give your body the workout it regularly needs.
However, laughing while you’re working out may offer more benefits than you realize. Of course, the most obvious one is that if you have a reason to be laughing, you’re probably having a good time and enjoying your workout more. Go on a run with a friend and tell each other a few jokes and you’re more likely to find the time passes effortlessly compared to when you’re running solo or you’re in a bad mood.
But laughter does more than that. Here are some other benefits of a laughter-filled workout:
Increased pain and fatigue thresholds. A study done at Oxford University showed that pain thresholds of participants who watched funny videos increased more than those who watched boring documentaries. Similar to the coveted “runner’s high,” laughter can raise your body’s endorphin levels which can make you less susceptible to the pain and fatigue of exercise. This can help you push through your workout and keep you going even as your body starts to tire.
Good for your respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Studies have shown that laughter can help lower blood pressure, improve blood flow throughout the body, reduce inflammation and combat stress. The process of emptying your lungs during a serious bout of laughing is also good for your respiratory system. This can help improve your breathing technique as you exercise.
Keeps you from getting sick. Several studies have shown that laughter can raise levels of antibodies in your body and boost your immune system. This can help you avoid illness, which is especially important when you’re around lots of germs at the gym or exercising outdoors in winter.
Improved performance and enjoyment for older adults. A study done at Georgia State University and published in The Gerontologist showed that incorporating intentional laughter into strength, balance and flexibility workouts for older adults improved both performance and enjoyment. This made it more likely that older adults would participate in physical activity.
Although laughter can’t replace a solid workout, there’s certainly something to be said for laughing while you’re exercising. If nothing else, it will help the time, miles or reps pass by more enjoyably so that before you know it, your workout is done.