Laugh, Laugh Out Loud; It is a Great Form of Exercise
What is it about laughter, that it makes one smile too, when we hear it? It is the good vibes. Apart from the pleasant vibes, recent research shows that a heartfelt laugh is a great form of exercise and thus great for health.
This recent study published by researchers at Oxford University in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, shows how inexplicably our emotions and bodies are entwined together.
For the purpose of the study, a large group of undergraduate men and women were recruited, and efforts were made to to make them laugh. The researchers observed the volunteers, while they were made to watch, both alone and in a group, a string of short videos that were either funny or dryly-factual films.
But before they were made to watch the funny or dry videos, the volunteers, were tested for their pain threshold. Observing the response to a tightening blood pressure cuff or a frozen cooling sleeve, were the two ways pain threshold of volunteers were gauged.
What is the need to know pain threshold? This is because, strenuous exercise releases endorphins or natural opiates. We have heard of the term ‘runner’s high‘, which occurs due to release of endorphins, and induces a sense of joy and euphoric calm. Pain management relies heavily on these natural opiates.
It was observed that pain thresholds went up for volunteers who watched the funny videos, compared to those who watched the factual dry documentaries. Also, the pain threshold was higher for volunteers who watched the funny vides in a group, versus those who watched it alone. No wonder exercise in a group is recommended. But, in case you like to exercise alone, do take time out to watch/ read something really funny; something, which will make you hoot with laughter! So you get a double high, one from your exercise and one from the laugh.
Most of us do not associate laughter as a physical action; we think it as an emotion. But, study-lead Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford thinks otherwise. Sharing his views with NYTimes, he said,
Laughter is fundamentally a physical action. Laughter involves the repeated, forceful exhalation of breath from the lungs. The muscles of the diaphragm have to work very hard. We’ve all heard the phrase ‘laugh until it hurts’, that pain isn’t metaphoric; prolonged laughing can be painful and exhausting.
And yes, the laugh has to be full-bodied; a gentle smile or polite titters does not have the same effects! So laugh, laugh out loud.