7 Serious Health Benefits of Laughter

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Elizabeth Beasley on September 22, 2020
  • father and son laughing
    Go Ahead and Giggle
    Snort, guffaw and hee hee hee all you want. Laughing’s not only fun, it’s a new form of fitness. Research has shown laughing every day has serious health benefits and can help you live longer. So hang up your sneakers (for a few minutes) and plop yourself down in front of your favorite TV comedy or funny online cat videos. Because belly laughs can be a new fix for belly fat and more. 
  • Women laughing outdoors
    1. Burns Calories and Tones Muscles
    Did you know yukking it up with 10 to 15 minutes of laughter a day can burn up to 40 calories? That means if you watch a funny 90-minute film, you can burn up to 240 calories—just enough to take care of that candy bar you snacked on during the movie. Have you ever laughed so hard your stomach hurt? It turns out a good laugh session can also tone your abs because laughter engages your diaphragm muscles and your core. Now that’s a workout you can look forward to doing every day. 
  • grandfather playing with blocks on floor with granddaughter
    2. Improves Memory Recall
    Laughter is good for your brain, say researchers at Loma Linda University in California. During a study of older adults in their 60s and 70s, participants who watched funny videos performed better on memory tests than participants who sat quietly before the test. The people who laughed had a 43.6% improvement in their memory recall abilities. Maybe that’s why you remember funny stories better than sad ones.
  • senior-couple-embracing
    3. Lowers Cortisol
    The same study about memory recall also revealed that people who laugh and enjoy humor have much lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. We all know stress can do a number on your body and mind, but laughter can help counteract those effects. Lowered cortisol has many benefits like keeping your blood sugar levels low and reducing inflammation in the body. Less cortisol also means better sleep, so read a funny book before bed and you’ll have sweeter dreams. 
  • couple-in-bed
    4. Protects Against Heart Disease
    A good laugh works wonders for your circulation and oxygenation. The act of laughing immediately boosts heart rate, respiratory activity, and oxygen consumption. This uptick in activity is followed by muscle relaxation and a decrease in your cardiovascular activity. The result? Your heart and lungs get a workout that keeps your blood pumping smoothly, lowers blood pressure over time, and helps prevent cardiovascular disease.
  • senior male laughing in hospital bed
    5. Boosts Natural Killer Cell Activity
    Laughter’s stress-reduction power helps improve natural killer cell activity in your body, which can increase resistance to disease and improve the health of people with cancer or HIV disease. So-called “laughter yoga” and humor therapy—in which participants generate voluntary laughter—have become a popular treatment for cancer patients and people with immune system disorders. In addition to the physical health benefits, laughter boosts mental health and coping skills. When faced with disease, humor can add a humanizing element to treatment protocol and boost your spirit and mood. A little silliness goes a long way in disease prevention and treatment. On a day-to-day basis, laughter can also ward off a simple cold or the flu.
  • woman laughing during yoga
    6. Enhances Mood
    Laughter yoga has become popular over the last few decades as a way to improve mood and self-esteem while reducing anxiety and depression. Instead of chanting “Om”, laughter yoga practitioners go for the giggle to release endorphins that make you feel good all over. The real secret is you don’t actually have to find something funny to laugh and get the benefits. Just making a laughing “ha-ha-ha” sound moves your diaphragm and gets your blood and oxygen circulating. Laughing with a group soon becomes contagious and eventually real laughs will take over to raise the happiness level of the entire room. 
  • Man with opera glasses laughing in theater audience
    7. Has (Almost) No Side Effects!
    Today we have many effective medications and treatments available to help heal our bodies, but the benefits can come with negative side effects. Fortunately, when you include laughter in your wellness regimen, your laughs have little risk of negative impact (well, unless your sides literally split). One word of caution: Hearty laughter can be an asthma trigger. If you have a breathing condition, such as asthma or COPD, keep your inhaler handy when you watch your favorite comedy. While laughter may not necessarily be the best medicine, it can often be a safe, fun and effective one. No joke!
7 Serious Health Benefits of Laughter
  1. Laughter prescription. US National Library of Medicine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2762283/
  2. Stress relief from laughter? It’s no joke. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456
  3. Laughter is the Best Medicine for Your Heart. University of Maryland Medical Center. http://umm.edu/news-and-events/news-releases/2009/laughter-is-the-best-medicine-for-your-heart
  4. Five Benefits of Laughter Yoga. Laughter Yoga University. http://laughteryoga.org/english/laughteryoga/details/80
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Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 22
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.