Laughing Burns An Unexpected Number Of Calories

When something cracks you up, it's not difficult to see how instantly you feel lighter afterward. There's nothing quite as cheery as hanging out with a friend who makes you laugh or putting on a comedy series you adore and guffawing uncontrollably. This is probably why we gravitate toward the funny person in a room all the time. 

But as it turns out, laughing does more for you than make you feel relaxed or happy. It also burns calories: 10 to 40 calories if you laugh for 10 to 15 minutes a day, to be precise, according to a 2006 study published in the International Journal of Obesity. Researchers measured the heart rate and energy expenditure (metabolic rate) of 100 volunteers who were instructed to watch comedy clips (via NBC News). Their resting metabolic rate was recorded while they were shown clips of the English countryside. "We found that when people were laughing, the increase was about 20 percent above the basic metabolism rate," shared Dr. Maciej Buchowski from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. 

According to the researchers, the amount of calories burned if you were to laugh for 10 to 15 minutes a day is equal to what you'd find in a small chocolate bar. But this number may vary depending on a person's BMI. Speaking of what happens to your body when you laugh, there's other research that likens laughing to exercise when it comes to its benefits. 

Laughing can be as beneficial as exercise

According to a small study involving 14 participants, genuine laughter can have the same effect on your hormones as exercise does (via CNN). According to the author of the study and preventive care specialist and researcher at Loma Linda University, Dr. Lee Berk, guffawing while enjoying some comedy clips resulted in creating a "a good balance" between the hunger and satiation hormones ghrelin and leptin (much like what happens after exercise) in the volunteers. 

Furthermore, laughter can produce the same results as exercise when it comes to heart health too, according to Dr. Michael Miller, director of the Center of Preventive Cardiology at the University of Maryland Medical Center (via CNN). "When you laugh for 15 minutes, the increase in the diameter of the blood vessel is similar to what you get when you run, jog or do aerobic-like activity," he explained. 

While you shouldn't rely just on laughter to burn calories or regulate your hormones, science has long been interested in how getting some laughs may actually be beneficial for your health. In addition to the obvious mental health benefits of relaxation and joy that arise from a serotonin release during tittering, laughing also promotes an intake of more oxygen, which can be beneficial for your internal organs, per Mayo Clinic. And there is definite truth to the adage that "laughter is the best medicine," as chuckling can promote immune system health, be a pain reliever, and fight the inflammation-causing stress hormone cortisol.

How to laugh more

If you're someone to whom seeing the funny side of things — even when they're challenging — comes naturally, then keep on doing that. Perspective when it comes to life is everything, and looking at things through a funny lens can be therapeutic. 

If you need a little more help incorporating laughter into your life, try following funny pages on social media or introducing short breaks during the day when you can look at something funny and chuckle, shared comedian Paul Osincup, president of the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (via Everyday Health). Surrounding yourself with naturally funny people might also give you more opportunities to laugh out loud. 

Laughter yoga is something else you can try. It's also important to understand that what you find funny might not be what someone else finds hilarious. Laughter can be very subjective. Seek out books, comedy shows, and people that suit your particular kind of humor, but also be mindful of engaging in harmful humor at the expense of others. As for laughter's side effect of burning calories, there's no harm in adding lots of laughs to an already active lifestyle and mindful eating. But laughter alone may not give you the results you're after if weight loss is your goal.