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Laughter and exercise are natural remedies for good health

Harold Mandel's picture
An elderly man

Georgia State researchers have found that there are benefits to a laughter based exercise program for the elderly.


As the population ages how to best maintain the health of the elderly has been becoming of greater interest. Laughter and exercise seem to be a powerful combination to nurture good health in the elderly.

There are health benefits associated with a laughter based exercise program

Georgia State University
researchers have found that there are health benefits associated with a laughter based exercise program for older adults. The mental health, aerobic endurance and confidence of elderly people could be improved by incorporating laughter into a physical activity program which has a focus on strength, balance and flexibility.

Researchers had elderly adults living in four assisted-living facilities participate in a moderate-intensity group exercise program which is called LaughActive. This program incorporates playful simulated laughter into a strength, balance and flexibility workout. The participants initially laughed and went through the motions of laughing in simulated laughter exercises. There was eye contact and playful behaviors between participants and a transition from laughter which was simulated to genuine laughter.

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Laughter may be an enjoyable part of a traditional exercise program

In simulated laughter techniques the body can't distinguish between genuine laughter which might result from humor and laughter which is self-initiated as a bodily exercise. Researchers said both forms of laughter elicited health benefits. A laughter exercise was generally incorporated into the workout routine. Laughter has been scientifically demonstrated to strengthen and relax muscles. Most participants found laughter to be an enjoyable part of a traditional exercise program. There were significant improvements among participants in mental health aerobic endurance and outcome expectations for exercise when associated with laughter.

There are a lot of adults who don't get enough physical activity to gain the health benefits associated with this. Motivation is needed for older people to adhere to a regular physical activity schedule. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines says adults should take part in a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week to get the desirable health outcomes.

There is lower mortality and a decreased risk of many chronic diseases with physical activity

Lower mortality and a decreased risk of many chronic diseases such as coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, depression and anxiety are health benefits associated with regular physical activity. For the elderly there are also less age associated decreases in aerobic endurance and incidence of falls and hip fractures associated with regular physical activity. These benefits are all important for older people to be able to maintain their ability to perform activities of daily living.

Celeste Greene, lead author of the study who is a master’s degree graduate from Georgia State’s Gerontology Institute, says a combination of laughter and exercise may have an influence on older people to begin exercising and to stay with the program. A physical exercise program with laughter was developed to help older people enjoy exercising. Intentional laughter was incorporated into the program so there would be fun in fitness for older people.

This study has been published in The Gerontologist. It was determined that a lack of enjoyment might be a barrier to participation in physical activity by older adults. Adding laughter to physical activity offers a possible solution for this problem. This offers the elderly the opportunity to maintain independence in the activities of daily living via taking part in physical activity which is enjoyable. Laughter really may sometimes be the best medicine.