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Medicine or Malarkey: Can Laughter Help with Weight Loss?

We’re all familiar with the old adage, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Perhaps someone has uttered this phrase to you while you were suffering from some rather unfunny health circumstances — be it a nasty flu or broken bones. Among those who believe in laughter’s cure-all purposes, there are even some who claim that laughter contributes to weight loss. Could that be true? Let’s examine the facts.

What Happens to Your Body When You Laugh?

When you laugh, your body does undergo physiological changes. Your pulse and blood pressure go up, and you breathe at a more rapid rate. Various muscles in your face, stomach and throughout the body are stretched as well.

Does Laughter Burn Calories?

Yes, fact, it does! A study conducted at Vanderbilt University in 2005 concluded that laughter increases your heart rate between 10 and 20 percent, and that 15 minutes of laughter could result in burning around 40 calories a day. Also, immediately after a bout of laughter, your heart rate remains at an elevated level temporarily.

Does This Make a Difference in Weight Loss?

While every little bit counts, it’s important to keep the 40 calories in perspective. You’re constantly burning calories just by living your daily life, whether you’re cooking (186 calories/hour), sleeping (46 calories/hour) or driving (120 calories/hour). So from a weight loss standpoint, it would be unwise to replace walking or going to the gym with a few minutes of watching cartoons! (How about walking or going to the gym with a friend who also makes you laugh?)

What are Other Possible Health Benefits of Laughter?

A few studies have linked laughter with the lowering of blood sugar, suggesting that laughter can be beneficial for people with diabetes.

For many people, frequent stress can lead to weight gain – and laughter has been shown to reduce stress and ease tension. Laughter has also been connected with improved immune performance (which can also help fight stress) – so laugh away to help reduce your chances of weight gain, to help your immune system, and to fight stress in general!

Though studies on the effects of laughter on the body continue, it’s important to remember the social circumstances and benefits of laughter. Laughter often comes from spending time with friends and family and engaging in fun activities. Over time, this enhances one’s overall sense of well-being… an important health factor that cannot be overlooked.