Cracking up is pretty much bursting with health benefits. (No joke.) In case you need an excuse to watch a comedy special or giggle with your girlfriends, here are seven reasons to indulge in some light-hearted laughter.
Laughter burns calories. When you chuckle, your heart rate increases by 10 to 20 percent—which can add up to 10 to 40 calories if you laugh for 10 to 15 minutes throughout the day. Not a ton, but we'll take it!
Laughter yoga exists. Strange, but true! Instructors talk you through guided techniques designed to get you giggling (sans jokes). These laughing exercises, along with deep breathing, are supposed to help oxygenate your body and brain and make you feel more healthy and energetic, according toLaughter Yoga International.
Laughter works your core. Speaking of laughter as a form of exercise, it may help you get great abs. The internal oblique muscles activated during the aforementioned laughter yoga is higher than with classic core work, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Motor Behavior; meanwhile, the activation of the external oblique muscle is comparable to what you'd experience during crunches.
Laughing with friends increases your pain threshold. In a 2012 study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, researchers found that social laughter significantly increases pain threshold, likely through a burst of endorphins.
Your brain can tell the difference between fake laughs and real ones. It's a proven fact! A 2013 study from the University of Royal Holloway London found that when you hear forced chuckles, there's greater activity in the anterior medial prefrontal cortex region of the brain—which indicates that you're probably trying to figure out what the person is really feeling (since it's not simply the joy of a good laugh).
Some people have laughter-induced asthma. And it's more common than you might think. In one study of 285 children who showed up in the ER with asthma symptoms, questionnaires revealed that 31.9 percent of those symptoms had started while laughing. Mirth proved to be a more prevalent trigger than excitement, causing the researchers to conclude that asthma brought on by giggling is fairly common.
Laughter helps your blood vessels work better. Researchers from the University of Maryland and Stanford University found that laugher resulted in a 22 percent increase in blood flow through vessels. On top of that, they found evidence for an uptick in nitric oxide, which has a protective effect on your cardiovascular system.