Laughter-based Exercise May Boost Health in Older Adults – Study
Incorporating laughter into a physical activity programme that is focused on strength, balance and flexibility could improve older adults’ mental health, aerobic endurance and confidence in their ability to exercise, according to a study led by Georgia State University (GSU).
“We want to help older adults have a positive experience with exercise, so we developed a physical activity programme that specifically targets exercise enjoyment through laughter,” said lead author of the study, Celeste Greene, who is a researcher at Georgia State University’s Gerontology Institute. “Laughter is an enjoyable activity and it carries with it so many health benefits, so we incorporated intentional laughter into this programme to put the fun in fitness for older adults.”
For the study, Greene and colleagues assigned older adults residing in four assisted-living facilities to participate in a moderate-intensity group exercise programme called LaughActive, which incorporated playful simulated laughter into a moderate-intensity strength, balance and flexibility workout.
During the six-week course of the study, participating seniors attended two sessions of 45-minute exercise every week. The programme included eight to 10 laughter exercises lasting 30 to 60 seconds each.
The researchers, however, acknowledged more research was needed to explore the underlying mechanisms of laughter and its associated health benefits. Despite the health benefits of physical activity and the risks of physical inactivity, many adults don’t engage in sufficient physical activity to achieve health benefits. These health benefits include lower mortality and a reduced risk of a number of chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, colon cancer, breast cancer, anxiety and depression. Regular physical activity also reduces the impact of age-related declines in aerobic endurance, the incidence of falls and hip fracture and the degenerative loss of muscle mass, quality and strength.
Healthy diet boosts children’s reading skills: Study
A healthy diet is linked to better reading skills in the first three school years, shows a recent study from Finland. Published in the European Journal of Nutrition, the study constitutes part of the Physical Activity and Nutrition in Children Study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland and the First Steps Study conducted at the University of Jyvaskyla.
The study involved 161 children aged 6–8 years old, and followed up on them from the first grade to the third grade in school. The quality of their diet was analysed using food diaries, and their academic skills with the help of standardised tests. The closer the diet followed the Baltic Sea Diet and Finnish nutrition recommendations – that is, high in vegetables, fruit and berries, fish, whole grain and unsaturated fats, and low in red meat, sugary products, and saturated fat – the healthier it was considered.
The study showed that children whose diet was rich in vegetables, fruit, berries, whole grain, fish and unsaturated fats, and low in sugary products, did better in tests measuring reading skills than their peers with a poorer diet quality.
“Another significant observation is that the associations of diet quality with reading skills were also independent of many confounding factors, such as socio-economic status, physical activity, body adiposity, and physical fitness,” says Researcher Eero Haapala, PhD, from the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Jyvaskyla.
Parents, schools, governments and companies can improve the availability of healthy foods
A healthy diet seems to be an important factor in supporting learning and academic performance in children. By making healthy choices every meal, it is possible to promote a healthy diet and enhance diet quality. Parents and schools have an important role in making healthy foods available to children. Furthermore, governments and companies play a key role in promoting the availability and production of healthy foods.