Laughing Matter

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Staying fit has become a very serious matter. We have miles to conquer, muscles to break down, pounds to lose and competitors to beat!

Among the ever growing number of ironman triathletes, vegetarian ultra runners, meditating yogi masters, cross fit maniacs, and solo mountaineers I have started to wonder where the visible signs of enjoyment are? Have we traded in the smiles, jokes, and laughter during training and racing and replaced them with blisters, muscle cramps, saddle sores, and sunburns? The inevitable consequences of exercise seem to have become a bigger badge of honor than the sheer enjoyment of it. These items are now what memories are made of, clogging race reports and long-term memory banks. The indicators of suffering are our new best friends.

I started regularly attending a group workout where laughter plays an equal partner to suffering. It has reminded me of the times when I regularly trained with a team and we laughed everyday through the process. I vaguely remember some of the difficult conditioning and harsh weather conditions, but most of my memories are of having fun and laughing out loud on and off the field. It didn’t mean we were not serious about our sport, quite the contrary, but the humor was always a welcome relief and a necessity in the development and success of our hard work.

Gelotology is the study of laughter and the results are no joke. Scientists are finding that laughter induces a similar response in the body as exercise does. Just think of the supercharge when combining the two!

Dr. Fry of Stanford University, has published numerous studies on laughter and its equivalence to exercise. Laughter stimulates the heart and circulation much the same as aerobic exercise. Laughing aloud (real or fake) 100 times produces a cardiovascular workout similar to 10 minutes on a rowing machine.

There seem to be several positives from getting a good laugh. First, it improves respiration, increases circulation and the production of those “feel good” endorphins. It also relaxes muscles while decreasing the ever present stress-related hormones. Pain tolerance goes up (thanks to the endorphins), immunity increases and a positive emotional state ensues. Statistics show that kids easily laugh 400 times a day, but adults are sometimes lucky to laugh just five times a day. No wonder our health and fitness seem to decline as we age.

“A good, real, unrestrained, hearty laugh is a sort of glorified internal massage, performed rapidly and automatically.  It manipulates and revitalizes corners and unexplored crannies of the system that are unresponsive to most other exercise methods.”  ~Author unknown

It has been said for centuries that laughter is the best medicine but now you can start to use it as a training tool! Add a few daily laughs to your workout routine and you’ll perform better, feel less pain, look younger and massage your internal organs all at the same time. If your schedule gets the best of you and you miss a workout, then just make sure you laugh 400-500 times during the day and you can write down 40+ minutes on the rowing machine in your exercise journal! Even if you don’t start winning races your friends and training partners will probably enjoy you that much more.

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