How many calories can you burn laughing?

It’s hard to have a sunny disposition while you exercise. You’re usually sweaty, uncomfortable and counting the minutes until your workout is over. But, it turns out, adopting a jovial attitude might make your exercise more beneficial.

The latest study from Georgia State University shows that laughing as you exercise boosts the health benefits of your workout. It can increase your endurance, help you lose weight and improve your mood. And benefits like those are nothing to laugh off…

In their study, researchers had older adults from assisted living communities participate in a group exercise program called LaughActive. The program combines a strength, balance and flexibility workout with the secret ingredient for a more effective and enjoyable workout — laughter.

For six weeks, study participants worked out for 45 minutes twice per week. These workout sessions included eight to 10 short (30 to 60 second) laughter exercises.

At the end of the study, participants saw significant improvements in their aerobic endurance and mental health. But the best benefit of laughing while you exercise, according to researchers, is that it may encourage you to exercise more.

“The combination of laughter and exercise may influence older adults to begin exercising and to stick with the program,” said Celeste Greene, lead author of the study. “We want to help older adults have a positive experience with exercise, so we developed a physical activity program that specifically targets exercise enjoyment through laughter.”

And the adults in Greene’s study did have a positive experience: 96.2 percent thought laughter made exercise more enjoyable, and 88.9 percent felt more motivated to partake in other exercise classes or activities.

But there’s still one more important benefit to combining laughter and exercise…

Laughter helps you burn more calories. A 2009 study found that laughing intensely for an hour is like a “mini aerobic workout” and can help you burn as many calories as lifting weights for 30 minutes. Even if you just laugh for 10 to 15 minutes, you can burn up to 280 calories.

Laughing and exercise: fake it ‘til you make it

All of these benefits are great. But how the heck do you laugh on command? What if nothing tickles your funny bone?

Well, when it comes to laughter and exercising, it’s all about faking it until you make it. Participants in the Georgia State University study, for example, were encouraged to force laughter at first. But they were also encouraged to initiate eye contact and playful behaviors with one another. And that was enough to bring on genuine laughter for most participants.

But, even if you can’t bring on an authentic chuckle, researchers say the body can’t tell the difference between a real laugh and simulated laugh anyway — you’re getting health benefits regardless.

So next time you hit the gym, crack a smile. Or maybe even let out a full belly laugh. You might get a few stares. But who cares? It’s all in the name of good health. You can also try joining a laughter exercise class like laughter yoga. Or, if you’re on the shy side, do some laughter exercises in the privacy of your own home. Here are a few to get you started.

Sources:
  1. M. Greene, et al. “Evaluation of a Laughter-based Exercise Program on Health and Self-efficacy for Exercise.” The Gerontologist, 2016.
  2. “Laughing ‘can help you lose weight.’” The Telegraph. http://www.telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  3. “The 100 Greatest Weight Loss Tips.” Men’s Wealth. http://menshealth.intoday.in. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
  4. “Ha-Ha-Om! Try These Stress-Busting Laughter Yoga Exercises.” MindBodyGreen. http://www.mindbodygreen.com. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.