According to a study by Georgia State University, a laughter-based exercise program that focuses on strength, balance, and flexibility can improve mental health in aging adults.
Despite the known health benefits of physical activity, and the risks of physical inactivity, many older adults aren’t active enough to get the possible health benefits. A lack of enjoyment of physical activity may be impeding the older adults’ participation.
In the study, older adults living in four assisted-living facilities (ALFs) participated in an average-intensity physical activity program called LaughActive, which combined simulated laughter techniques into a strength, balance, and flexibility workout. In these simulated laughter exercises, those participating were told to laugh and go through the motions of laughing. The exercises helped promote eye contact and playful behavior with the other participants, which eventually transferred the laughter from simulated to authentic.
Simulated laughter techniques are based on the knowledge that the human body can’t differentiate between natural laughter and laughter that is self-initiated. According to researchers, both forms of laughter are beneficial to the body.
For six weeks, the study participants went to two 45-minute physical activity sessions per week that included eight to ten laughter sessions that lasted roughly 30 to 60 seconds each. Since laughter is scientifically proven to empower and ease muscles, the laughter exercises mostly involved physicality in the muscles during the strength, balance and flexibility exercises.
What This Means
The study found that the mental health and ability to exercise improved in the participants after adhering to a regular physical activity involving laughter techniques. Aging adults often opt out of being active, despite the health benefits, so this may be a way to encourage more physical activity and to substitute for it.
“Laughter-based Exercise Program For Older Adults Has Health Benefits, Georgia State Researchers Find,” Georgia State University web site, Sept 15 2016; http://news.gsu.edu/2016/09/15/laughter-based-exercise-program-health-benefits-georgia-state-researchers-find/.