April Fools: Good or Bad for Our Health?
April Fools Day has been celebrated since the early 19th century (although some believe it dates back to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, written in 1392) so what makes this odd “event” so intriguing that we keep marking time celebrating it? Many would argue it’s an opportunity to pull a prank and get away with it. Others vote for its health value in invoking laughter into our daily lives. And yet some would disagree and caution the perils and pitfalls of some pranksters.
While there’s always one or two who take a joke too far (hence, the perils and pitfalls), a good positive joke can reap a host of healthy benefits. Laughter truly might be the best medicine for many an ailment of the soul or heart not to mention boast some bonafide physical attributes. In fact, some believe that laughter is as beneficial as a mild workout! Wouldn’t that be great if we only had to laugh rather than “work out”?
The truth is that when we laugh, we literally prompt our facial and body muscles to stretch, we breath faster thus sending more oxygen throughout our body, and our pulse and blood pressure go up. Kind of like a work out, right? Now, throw in some additional movement while you laugh – for example, waving your arms or kicking your legs, and your heart rate gets an even more favorable boost!
According to William Fry, a pioneer in laughter research, one minute of hearty laughter brought his heart rate to the level that ten minutes on a rowing machine took. Another researcher from Vanderbilt University proposed that calories are burned while laughing. His small study concluded that 10 to 15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories.
Norman Cousins praised the effects of laughter in his memoir, “Anatomy of an Illness”. He credited ten minutes of laughter with enabling him to net two hours of pain-free sleep. Other scientists and researchers have hypothesized through various studies that laughter via viewing comedies lowers blood sugar levels or increases immune factors, while measures from watching dramas did not. Some of these results have been questioned and scrutinized however, due to the small samples studied.
So what’s the takeaway on laughter? If it makes you feel good, perhaps it is good for you. But remember, not everyone has the same sense of humor. So, if you’re into pulling April 1 pranks, make them truly funny and beneficial to those you are pranking!