If you’re familiar at all with the old stereotype that heavier people are jolly, or have ever seen the stony face on your average supermodel, the idea of laughter as a weight loss tool may come as something of a surprise.
Yet according to a small study recently published in the International Journal of Obesity, it may in fact be just that.
The researchers recruited 45 pairs of friends and divided the couples into two groups. Each group was either shown funny or serious film clips and monitored a number of aspects of the effects, including the number of calories burnt, heart rate, as well as the duration and type of laughter.
Results showed that laughing stimulated a 20% increase in both heart beat and calorie burn rate and the longer subjects laughed for the greater the benefits.
Using this data, the team were able to calculate that laughing for just 15 minutes a day could burn up to 10 to 40 extra calories depending on intensity of laughter an body stats. That equates to a loss of 1lb-4lbs a year.
Hardly marathon material, sure, but every little helps, right?
Dr Helen Pilcher, a comedian who has a PhD in biology and recently conducted a review of several studies looking at the dietary impact of laughter, suggests it might be even more advantageous. Her conclusion was that laughing uncontrollably, i.e. falling about in hysterics, can burn up to 120 calories, putting it on a par with a brisk walk, while a prober belly laugh melts 100 and even mild amusement can shift 20.
It’s long been understood that laughing is a bit of an all-round physiological winner: it lowers blood pressure, is good for the heart and causes the release of endorphins – a feel good chemical which improves mood – in the brain.
Scientists have also recently discovered that the internal oblique muscles, crucial for sculpting that perfect six pack, are actually more active while chuckling than they are during abominable crunches.
By all accounts, rib tickling is a win/win as far as weight loss goes and although you might not exactly giggle your way to a Mr or Ms Universe title, it’s easy enough to work a bit of amusement into your current at fat burning regime.
It can’t hurt to watch your favourite comedy boxset while on the treadmill for example, or even get someone to tickle under your arms during the snap of a deadlift say. Actually, no. No that might hurt, quite a lot in fact.
Best stick to the comedies.