Laugh­ter-based Ex­er­cise May Boost Health in Older Adults – Study

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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.

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