Well it’s taken a while, but the most mainstream of mainstream news organizations has declared that laughter is a form of exercise. If they’d watched Albert Nerenberg’s documentary film Laughology back when it was released by disinformation in 2010 their readers could have been happier and healthier by now. Oh well, here’s Gretchen Reynolds’ take in the New York Times:
Is laughter a kind of exercise? That offbeat question is at the heart of a new study of laughing and pain that emphasizes how unexpectedly entwined our bodies and emotions can be.
For the study, which was published this year in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers at Oxford University recruited a large group of undergraduate men and women.
They then set out to make their volunteers laugh.
Most of us probably think of laughter, if we think of it at all, as a response to something funny – as, in effect, an emotion.
But laughter is fundamentally a physical action. “Laughter involves the repeated, forceful exhalation of breath from the lungs,” says Robin Dunbar, a professor of evolutionary psychology at Oxford, who led the study. “The muscles of the diaphragm have to work very hard.” We’ve all heard the phrase “laugh until it hurts,” he points out. That pain isn’t metaphoric; prolonged laughing can be painful and exhausting.
Rather like a difficult workout.
But does laughter elicit a physiological response similar to that of exercise and, if so, what might that reveal about the nature of exertion?
To find out, Dr. Dunbar and his colleagues had their volunteers watch, both alone and as part of a group, a series of short videos that were either comic or dryly factual documentaries…
[continues in the New York Times]