6 Ways That Laughter Can Increase Your Fitness
Yeah, right. Laughter increasing lifting or yoga practice? Please.
The only thing that was ever funny about yoga is when someone farted in down dog and the whole class snickered - but only a little. Then back to mantras, transcendental meditation and getting all zen and stuff.
Related - Yoga Butt, a Real and Painful Injury
It is the same with lifting.
Farting seems to be a theme here, but honestly, it isn’t. I won't even talk about farting when I give you those six ways you can increase your fitness with laughter - although if you aren’t laughing when someone is farting, you're kinda square...
Gelotology - The Study of Laughter
So I am gonna go nerd on this whole laughter thing, so bear with me, will ya? The study of laughter is called gelotology.
Yes, I swear. I looked it up. There are all kinds of areas of the brain that are involved in laughter, so let's get this party started...
- The left side of the cerebral cortex analyzes the joke and looks at the wording. It's kinda logical in that way...
- Then, the large frontal lobe starts lighting up on the pet scan, the electrical impulse going to the other side of the cerebral cortex.
- Then, the right side of the cerebral cortex has to get all involved, and works to actually understand and “get” the joke.
- All that electrical impulse spreading from side to side stimulates motor sections that make you laugh, snort, shoulder shrug and spit out your milk. Oh come on, I am not the only one that does those things when they laugh, right?
There is even more involved but pretty sure you get the gist of it.
More things that laughter does for you is to strengthen your immune system, boosts your mood, helps pain, protects you from damaging effects of certain hormones on your body and stuff. Yes, super technical, I know. If you have more opioid receptors saturated, you basically feel better when you laugh.
So kinda like heroin, but not.
Also, they found laughter to support social cohesion and that laughter can be contagious. This enhances relationships and socialization. So basically the friends who laugh together... Get happy together.
Did you know that the diaphragm is a muscle that also attaches to other muscles? When you have a good belly laugh you are using muscles around your rib cage and gut and you jiggle some of your intestines around which (this is debatable, but makes sense) your gut works better?
If laughing is wrong, I don’t want to be right...
How Laughter Can Improve Fitness
So how can this help you in increasing your fitness?
1. Recovery times are less
If you are lifting, you are breaking down muscle, you probably have some lactic acid released and you probably are sore after you lift. You are more prone to have an immune system boost and a decrease in inflammation if you are laughing with a friend in between your sets.
2. Improve pain tolerance
Got some hard weights to move around or doing something difficult in a fitness class? Well, you're in luck, because laughing can increase your tolerance for pain.
Yes, laughing actually fights pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. So, if you have a friend that is super funny, make them come with you to the gym so that they can make it fun by telling you jokes or just watch them suck miserably at lifting and laugh at them...
Well, what are friends for, anyway?
3. Laughing helps you cope
So you want to hit your personal best in running? How about your one rep max?
Well, laughing (um, maybe not during your one rep max) can help you cope with difficult situations and increase your personal satisfaction. Again with the opioid receptors being saturated...
4. You get a good boost
Stressed thinking about the gym? Lifting? I know I get stressed out when I think of squatting - basically because squatting is my least favorite lift.
Cortisol and epinephrine can be released in times of stress. Laughter combats this by boosting the secretion of growth hormone and increases the release of endorphins.
5. Laughing works your abs
Ok, this is a quasi-benefit of laughing, but still. If you never do any abdominal workouts, good belly laughs can help you out.
Just think of all that deep breathing, sucking in your breath, expanding and contracting those gut muscles. Six pack on its way...
6. It's contagious "feel-good" medicine
Last but not least... Imagine that you have to do yoga to decrease your blood pressure or that you have to meditate like a million hours a day just to get your road rage under control so you don’t pop a blood vessel.
Maybe you have to go to the old-person stretch class because you are so fragile that your gonna have a stroke if you walk angrily across the street. Now, you just listen to Eddie Murphy or whoever floats your boat through your iPod and guess what? You start laughing while you are meditating.
People start to laugh at you at first, and then they follow suit and laugh with you. Now they are getting the best workout of their lives, too. Six months later you dating with regularity and have a chest like the Rock. All because you decided to laugh a little.
Laughter is actually universal in nature. It is a physical thing that happens from our hypothalamus on down. Hormones release, feel-good hormones are produced and not so feel good hormones being down-regulated helps to make laughter “the best medicine.”
I am sure that you have heard that little phrase that “laughter is the best medicine,” because it does so dang many things - so why can’t laughter be the best fitness enhancer? I mean, if you think about it, working out decreases the stress response - um, last I heard, so does laughing - so what if you do both?
One interview I read about this dude, Michael Miller MD, the Director of Cardiology at the University of Maryland said after a study on the health impact of laughter, “The change we saw in the endothelium is similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic activity but without the aches, pains and muscle tension associated with exercise.”
Now, don’t get all bent out of shape. He isn’t recommending you to just laugh your way to the bodybuilding stage or to go run a Spartan right after a visit to a comedy club. What he is stating is that laughter is actually good for your vascular system along with regular exercise.
Inflammation goes down with laughing, so why not use that to your advantage when struggling to get that last rep or to run that last mile? Why not do Zumba and get those legs to not be so sore tomorrow? Really, who wouldn’t do that?
Some of these things sound kinda silly, but then again, are they? I know that I love to laugh, and incorporating it into my workouts makes me have a tremendously stellar workout.
So put your fav comedian on your i-pod, bring a funny friend or just laugh out loud to a funny memory - it will improve your workout and improve your life as well.
References1) "On Physical Fitness Through Laughter: Jogs Internal Organs, Makes Working Out Fun." Laughter Online University, 3 Apr. 2018, www.laughteronlineuniversity.com/laughter-fitness/.
2) "How Does Laughter Affect the Brain? | Brain Health." Sharecare, www.sharecare.com/health/brain/how-laughter-affect-brain.
3) "The Neuroscience of Contagious Laughter." Psychology Today, 29 Sept. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201709/the-neuroscience-contagious-laughter.