Laughter is helping seniors get fit

- Laughter really is good medicine, at least when it comes to helping older adults get healthier.

At Delmar Gardens, a senior living community in Smyrna, Georgia, Celeste Greene works the room, waving her arms in the air, trying to give people the giggles.

They call this simulated laughter.

"We're laughing on purpose,” Greene says. “What I like to say is we're laughing on purpose because it feels good and it's good for us."

And 95-year old Martha Affalter is one of the first in her workout class to catch the chuckle bug.  She's a lifelong laugher.

"Laughter is good for the soul,” Affalter says. “God gave us laughter to make us happy.  So, I appreciate anything nice that  makes me laugh."

Greene, who earned a master's degree in Gerontology at Georgia State University, is the Director of "LaughActive," a wellness program that incorporates simulated laughter (or laughter you can practice and learn) into an exercise program designed for seniors.

"Because laughter is actually shown to strengthen and relax your muscles,” says Greene. "So, what happens is exercise can seem very strenuous.  So we try to add in a laughter exercise every 2 to 4 strength or balance or flexibility exercises."

Here, there are no lame jokes, or missed punchlines.  Just a bunch of men and women practicing the art of laughing.

"It's based on scientific evidence that actually shows that your body doesn't know the difference between real laughter and just going through the motions of laughter,” explains Greene. “So, what we do is, we just laugh."

A Georgia State University study recently found mixing laughter and exercise helps seniors build strength, flexibility and balance. 

Virginia Cooper is 87 and says she loved the combination of exercise and laughter.

“Because it brings out the good part in you,” Cooper says.  “I smile all the time. But the laughter goes with it. And it just makes the body complete."

At 93, Charlie Daniel says his wife laughs more than the does, but the class was fun.

"If I get a good laugh, I feel good,” Daniel says.

As the workout winds down, Celeste Greene says she though the class did terrifically.

“And this is a pretty tough, independent group,” she says.

Martha and her classmates say they'd do this again. 

Because laughing just to laugh, they say, feels pretty good.

"I've always enjoyed laughter,” says Affalter.  “Because I enjoy life.  I'm getting close to 100, but I still enjoy every moment, yeah."

To learn more about LaughActive, visit laughactive.com

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