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Healthy Fit: Laughter as a form of exercise

Mphatso Mlotha | Interrobang | Sports | February 14th, 2011

Some say the more you laugh the longer you'll live. That is probably true because laughing is an action that is part of exercising and many people don't put that into perspective.

Laughing works the body the same way other modes of exercise do. For instance, as you do your situps, you notice that your abdominal muscles tighten as your upper body pushes forward. The same action occurs when you laugh. As you laugh, you contract the abdominal muscle, causing it to tighten. We actually perform mindless crunches every time we laugh, without even realizing it.

Ilchi Lee, a renowned healing specialist set up several principles and methodologies that focus on brain respiration. Lee recommends laughing as the best form of exercise.

"It is better to laugh for five minutes than to exercise for five hours," he said. "Your brain experiences a transformation simply by laughing one time. If you laugh intensely, you will be using nerves in the brain, as well as facial muscles, that you do not ordinarily use."

Laughing is also incorporated in many yoga exercises, often referred to as laughter yoga. The exercise strategy varies in different countries, but it usually consists of a group of people that come together and perform multiple laughter exercises. Like most workouts, laughter yoga has warm-ups as well, where participants stretch their muscles and perform breathing exercises.

Many who have experienced laughter yoga indicate that they perceived it to be better than aerobic exercises, because it brings more oxygen to the body cells than aerobic exercises. More oxygen flow in the body and brain results in less blood pressure and less stress.

An example of a laughter exercise is appreciation laughter. Within this exercise, you join your pointing finger with the thumb to make a small circle while making gestures as if you are appreciating your group members and laughing simultaneously.

Certified laughter yoga instructor Barb Fisher, from University of Michigan's health systems, said, "Studies have shown that 20 seconds of a good, hard belly laugh is worth three minutes on the rowing machine."

"However, that does not mean we want to stop doing all other exercises," she added. "It means that incorporating laughter yoga can add to the benefits we see from our regular exercise routine."

There are many health benefits to laughter yoga, including stress reduction, enhancement of the immune system, strengthening cardiovascular functions and muscle toning, according to Fisher.
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