The health benefits of music and laughter
What do laughter and music have in common? According to researchers, they can both boost your heart health.
Reduced blood pressure
Both laughter and music have been shown to reduce blood pressure. In a study out of Osaka University in Japan, researchers found that over a three-month period, laughter and music helped lower blood pressure among middle-aged men and women. The participants were divided into three groups: a laughter group, a music group and a control group.
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Those in the music group sang, listened and stretched to music, and were asked to listen to music on their own time. After three months, their average blood pressure decreased by almost 6 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Those in the laughter group participated in laughter yoga (a combination of exercise breathing and simulated laughter) and listened to Japanese performance comedy. After three months, the laughter group experienced an average decrease in blood pressure of 5 mm Hg.
A study at Seattle University showed that listening to classical music three times a week decreased systolic (top number) blood pressure an average of 5%.
Increased blood flow
In addition to lowering blood pressure, laughter and music are linked to healthy function of blood vessels, according to studies at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
In one laughter study, volunteers were shown two movie clips: a violent battle scene on one day and a comedic scene on another day. After watching the violent movie clip, 70% of the participants experienced constricted blood flow in their arteries. After watching the comedy, 95% of the same participants experienced increased blood flow.The head researcher suggests that the positive change in blood flow is similar to the benefit a person would get from aerobic activity;and while laughter is no substitute for exercise, it certainly doesn't hurt to include plenty of it in your day.
The same group of researchers found that when participants listened to music that brought them joy, they experienced an average 26% increase in blood vessel diameter. Music that caused anxiety narrowed blood vessels by 6%.
More benefits of laughter
But laughter can help more than your heart. Other health benefits include:
- Stress reduction
- Improved immune system function
- Increased HDL "good" cholesterol
- Decreased C-reactive protein (a marker for inflammation)
- Decreased cortisol levels (a stress hormone)
Turn on some music you enjoy -- and laugh it up!