Can You Literally Laugh Your Ass Off?

Illustration for article titled Can You Literally Laugh Your Ass Off?

It's often said that "laughter is the best medicine" but could it also be a decent workout? In a recent study, researchers at Oxford University found that our bodies have a similar physiological response to laughter as they do exercise.


For the study, researchers rounded up a group of volunteers and tested their pain thresholds by seeing how long they could tolerate a tightening blood pressure sleeve. Then, the volunteers were made to watch a series of short humor-based videos and some boring fact-based documentaries—both alone and in a group setting. Researchers found that the pain thresholds for people went up after viewing the funny videos, but not after the documentaries.

What does this mean? Well, when we engage in strenuous exercise our bodies release endorphins as a way to manage the pain of that kind of physical activity. According to the findings of the study, the same thing happens when we "laugh until it hurts." The muscle contractions of deep belly-laughter results in the same biochemical reaction.


Does this mean that sitting on your couch and watching standup specials can count as working out? Probably not. But what researchers did find was that when people watched videos as a group they tended to laugh harder, and thus, their pain thresholds rose higher than when they laughed alone, suggesting that more endorphins were released in a group setting. So if you want to make working out slightly more bearable, you should get a buddy.

Image via IKO/Shutterstock
Laughter as a Form of Exercise [NYT]

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What is the specific health benefit of muffled cubicle snorts (accompanied by watering eyes) caused by the wit of Jezebel commenters?