Laugh your way to better health

Laughter is the best medicine, as the saying goes, but a new study has found regular laughter could be the secret to a healthier life for older people.

Researchers from Melbourne’s La Trobe University found chuckles, chanting and clapping can led to improved mood and lower blood pressure.

They studied residents from three Melbourne aged care homes, aged 61 to 96, who took part in six weekly Laughter Yoga sessions – a program involving simulated laughter exercises, deep belly breathing, chanting and clapping while seated in a circle.

The researchers also measured the residents’ positive and negative mood and level of happiness, as well as their pulse and blood pressure at the beginning and end of each session.

“The study found Laughter Yoga resulted in measurable improvements in health and emotional wellbeing for older people living in residential aged care homes,” lead researcher Julie Ellis said.

“Based on our findings, there’s good reason to run regular sessions in aged care facilities.”

Fellow La Trobe researcher and Laughter Yoga instructor who led the sessions, Ros Ben-Moshe, said the majority of participants enjoyed the experience.

“Laughter is contagious. If one person in the group laughed, others soon followed,” Ms Ben-Moshe said.

“Even in residents with dementia, increased laughter and social engagement was observed.

“Participants told us Laughter Yoga made them feel good, relaxed and connected with others in the group.

“Only one person dropped out and most of those who completed the program said they would do it again.”

In total, 28 residents took part in the research, published in The Australasian Journal of Ageing. 

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