No, that’s not a joke. That’s the topic of a study chronicled in a recent New York Times article. It found that the simple act of laughing can indeed trigger an endorphin release in similar to that of exercise in some people, and is often heightened when done in a group setting. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Why the interplay of endorphins and laughing should be of interest to those of us who exercise may not be immediately obvious. But as Dr. Dunbar points out, what happens during one type of physical exertion probably happens in others. Laughter is an intensely infectious activity. In this study, people laughed more readily and lustily when they watched the comic videos as a group than when they watched them individually, and their pain thresholds, concomitantly, rose higher after group viewing.
Something similar may happen when people exercise together, Dr. Dunbar says. In an experiment from 2009, he and his colleagues studied a group of elite Oxford rowers, asking them to work out either on isolated rowing machines, separated from one another in a gym, or on a machine that simulated full, synchronized crew rowing. In that case, the rowers were exerting themselves in synchrony, as a united group.
After they exercised together, the rowers’ pain thresholds — and presumably their endorphin levels — were significantly higher than they had been at the start, but also higher than when they rowed alone.
Maybe we all need to not only exercise more, but even laugh more, and do it every day (often with each other)? Go check out the article and decide for yourself.