Did you know that on average children laugh more the 20 times as often as adults? On any given day, a child will generally laugh upwards of 300 times! Could there be a link between how our bodies age and the amount of laughter we allow ourselves to have? Do we stop laughing because we’re getting older? Or do we get old because we stop laughing? Consider these incredible health and fitness benefits which laughter can provide to us:
Cardiovascular Health – The natural action of laughing gets our heart pumping, blood flowing and circulation moving. This helps to oxygenate the blood, eliminate carbon dioxide and allow our muscles and organs to operate more efficiently. Laughter has been shown to lower blood pressure and tonify the heart. With better cardiovascular health, every tissue and cell in our body receives essential nutrients from the blood more effectively.
Muscle Activation and Tonification – If you think back to the last time you had a truly deep, hearty laugh, you likely remember feeling as if you had just finished 100 sit-ups. Laughing stimulates the diaphragm and abdominal muscles giving them a nice little workout. Many other muscles are activated and used when we laugh, including facial, shoulders, leg, back and respiratory muscles. And just like any healthy workout, when the laughter ceases, the muscles are able to relax and recover better than before.
Build and Boost the Immune System – Regular laughter has been shown to improve the activity and responsiveness of T-lymphocytes (cells which are programmed to destroy invaders and disease) and interferon (which play a significant role in our immunity). Our natural killer cells, which attach cells that have been infected with viruses, tumors and cancer, are stimulated with laughter. Our antibody production is increased and our immune system becomes stronger which enables us to remain healthy for training and competition.
Stronger Respiration – Laughing enhances the amount of immunoglobulin A (IgA) in our saliva which helps protect us from respiratory disease and cold frequency. This also reduces our susceptibility to conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema and other lung and sinus infections. Our lungs greatly benefit from the aerobic workout they receive during laughter. This is partly due to the increased movement of the diaphragm, and partly from the bodies need for more oxygen. With more air entering and exiting the lungs, we undergo a cleansing effect similar to that which we would experience with deep breathing or meditating.
Hormone Reduction and Enhancements – Stress hormones, such as cortisol, dopamine and adrenaline are all reduced when we laugh. At the same time, our bodies increase the production of healthy hormones such as neurotransmitters and endorphins.
Increase Mental Alertness and Clarity – As well as clarity, alertness and creativity, laughing regularly also improves our memory and learning. The greatest athletes are well aware of the significant body~mind connection and the role which a clear mind plays on performance and health. If we are able to maintain this mental state, we can become more focused and excel athletically.
There are various other health and fitness benefits associated with laughter. I have simply outlined some of the most important reasons why we should all spend a bit more time enjoying the finer things in our daily lives and not feel so self-conscious about our laughter. We all know how to send a ‘lol’ text message, but how many of us actually practice laughing out loud?