Have you ever had that exhausted feeling after a good laugh? You know, the one where your side hurts, your eyes water, you can't catch your breath and your body's totally spent. It feels like you've just finished a two-hour session at the gym.
Laughter and exercise may share more in common than you think -- most notably, both can boost your health. Sure, you know about the infinite benefits of an active lifestyle, but did you know that laughter can support the immune system, improve blood pressure, stimulate the organs and reduce pain?
Let's not get ahead of ourselves -- watching funny movies all the time won't lead to perfect health (in fact, being a couch potato will do more harm than good), but remembering that laughter has powerful benefits should get you smiling. In fact, psychoneuroimmunology is a field of research dedicated to deciphering the relationship between human behavior (in this case, laughing) and the mind, and how it affects the immune system [source: Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology].
Trying to prove the beneficial effects of laughter is tough since everyone defines and reacts to humor differently, and the physical responses based on laughter can mimic similar behaviors, like talking or screaming. Also, the subject of laughter as medicine hasn't elicited many large-scale studies thus far [source: Pattillo and Itano].
However, existing research gives us hope that our old knock-knock jokes aren't just making people feel better; they actually are making them better. Let's look at some of the ways in which laughter really is the best medicine.