You've heard of the "runner's high." Get ready for the "laugher's high."
A study at Oxford University found that laughing causes the body to release the same endorphins as exercising, resulting in the feelings of euphoria mixed with serenity that many endurance athletes report experiencing.
This doesn't come as a surprise to the practitioners of Laughter Yoga, an exercise routine that combines laughing with breathing exercises, said Minneapolis teacher Jody Ross.
"It's nice to have Oxford confirm something we've been seeing anecdotally," said the founder of the Linden Hills Free Laughter Club (www.laughtercenter.com), which, with 420 members, is the largest of its kind in the country. "When people leave our weekly Monday night classes, we can see it in their faces. There's a sense of elation yet relaxation."
There's one caveat: The laughs can't just be what the researchers called "polite titters." To get the maximum effect, you need full-fledged belly laughs that give the diaphragm a workout.
Ross and the researchers also agree that the endorphins released by laughing can help offset pain. In fact, Ross initially got involved with Laughter Yoga in hopes that it would help manage her chronic pain from fibromyalgia.
Endorphins "are the body's natural morphine," she said. "And I've heard that it's much more powerful than regular morphine."