Is Laughter The Best Medicine?

Apicha Community Health Center Jul 05, 2016  

Apicha CHC"Laughter is the best medicine" is a very common phrase in the English language. It's commonly featured in "Get Well Soon" cards, or by that overly-optimistic aunt. However, that's an awful tall claim to make.A great deal of innovations have been made in the medical field since the origin of the phrase in the 16th century. So we set out to determine whether laughter is actually the best medicine.

Research Behind "Laughter is the Best Medicine"

  • Laughter is a great way to exercise your muscles

    "The effects of laughter and exercise are very similar. Combining laughter and movement, like waving your arms, is a great way to boost your heart rate."One pioneer in laughter research, William Fry, claimed it took ten minutes on a rowing machine for his heart rate to reach the level it would after just one minute of hearty laughter.


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  • You burn calories when you laugh:

    Laughter appears to burn calories, too. Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, conducted a small study in which he measured the amount of calories expended in laughing. It turned out that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories.
  • When given the chance to watch a comedy or a drama, pick comedy: 

    Researchers at the University of Maryland studied the effects on blood vessels when people were shown either comedies or dramas. After the screening, the blood vessels of the group who watched the comedy behaved normally -- expanding and contracting easily. But the blood vessels in people who watched the drama tended to tense up, restricting blood flow.
  • Balance a stressful lifestyle with extra laughter: 

    Increased stress is associated with decreased immune system response, says Provine. Some studies have shown that the ability to use humor may raise the level of infection-fighting antibodies in the body and boost the levels of immune cells, as well. 
  • Laughter is especially important if you have diabetes: 

    One study of 19 people with diabetes looked at the effects of laughter on blood sugar levels. After eating, the group attended a tedious lecture. On the next day, the group ate the same meal and then watched a comedy. After the comedy, the group had lower blood sugar levels than they did after the lecture.
  • Have an illness that makes sleeping more difficult? Try laughter before bed

    The focus on the benefits of laughter really began with Norman Cousin's memoir, Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition, found that a diet of comedies, like Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera, helped him feel better. He said that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.
    From WebMD

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So is Laughter really the Best Medicine?

It's important to note that there is no conclusive research or evidence that you can skip your doctor's appointments and throw all of your medication away. In fact, please don't do that. Primary care checkups are important, as is any medication your doctor has prescribed you. 

However, if you've been feeling especially stressed, or you've been having trouble sleeping lately, maybe you should try trading in your Game of Thrones or Daredevil marathons for a comedy one night a week.

The big takeaway is that laughter is completely free, you don't need a prescription, and it might help take the edge off without any negative side effects. Give it a try sometime!

If you're concerned about your physical or mental well-being, Apicha CHC is here to help. Request an appointment with one of our knowledgeable medical providers today. 

Apicha Community Health Center | LGBT Health Center in NYC


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