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Laughter really is good medicine

When it comes to reducing stress and even improving the immune system, laughter is right up there with exercise and good nutrition. Seems like laughter was a natural occurrence when we were kids, but then we grew up, and life got more serious.

To quote E.E. Cummings, "The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.''

Milton Berle had this to say: "Laughter is an instant vacation."

Laughing brings amazing benefits. It helps make us happier and healthier and is considered one of the best medicines for stress. As laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body's natural feel-good chemicals kick in, reducing stress hormones and replacing them with energy.

And when your muscles become less tense, you begin to feel more relaxed and more alert, enabling you to focus on positive thinking, and not on negative thoughts that can adversely affect your body by increasing your stress levels and compromising your immune system.

Laughing boosts your immune system by increasing the circulation of antibodies that help ward off disease.

Fun fact: You don't even have to have a sense of humor to laugh. Simulated laughter is just as therapeutic.

Need more reasons to let more laughter into your life? Laughing:

• Lowers blood pressure.

• Helps you stay mentally healthy. You can't feel annoyed, sad or angry when you are laughing.

• Is contagious. Its positive energy helps you connect with other people.

• It works your abs. Muscles in the stomach expand and contract, while other muscles in the body are relaxed.

Laughter yoga

Laughter Yoga Clubs, which use certified instructors to explain and share different laughter exercises that can help you open up and laugh freely, are becoming more popular. And you don't have to look too far to find one. There are clubs in Tampa, Clearwater and St. Petersburg. (For more information, do a quick internet search.)

The original Laughter Yoga Club was started in India in 1995 by a medical doctor and his wife, a yoga instructor. In addition to 10- or 15-minute laughing exercises, free sessions include breathing and stretching exercises and a 10-minute meditation.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. Contact her at slafit@tampabay.rr.com.

Partner exercises are demonstrated by John Moran and Maja Hodzic.

m Single leg pass the ball: Targets the core and is a balance challenge.

Stand, facing each other, about 3 feet apart while contracting your abdominals. Balance on one leg with opposite leg in a knee lift position.

One partner holds a 4- to 6-pound medicine ball at chest level. That partner presses the ball from the chest as if it were a basketball chest pass.

The other partner catches the ball in front of the chest and quickly returns it.

Continue passing the ball for 30 seconds, or longer if you can.

Tips: Beginners can use a nonweighted ball and replace the knee lift with toes touching the floor.

m Pistol squat: This balance exercise targets the lower body.

Partners stand, facing each other, on opposite legs

while holding on to each other's right forearm for balance.

Extend the free leg off the floor with foot flexed.

Sitting back into the hips, lower into a squat position. Avoid letting your knees go beyond your toes.

Repeat eight to 10 times, then return to a standing position.

Change legs and repeat the pattern.

Tip: Beginners should start with three or four squats, then gradually increase that number.

m Bicycle on the floor: Targets the abdominal muscles.

Lie on the floor with your legs bent and your feet flat, supporting yourself with your lower arms. Your toes should be touching your partner's toes.

Lift your feet off the floor and touch the bottoms of your feet together.

Contract your abdominals.

Push your feet alternately as if you are riding a bicycle.

Alternate sides until you reach 10 to 12 reps on each side, gradually building to two or three sets.

Tips: For variety, place your hands behind your ears and lift your upper backs off the floor, alternating shoulder rotations toward opposite knees. Avoid going too fast.

Laughter really is good medicine 10/24/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 24, 2017 1:53pm]
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