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Just add laughter to amplify winter benefits of outdoor exercise

This past few days, Brisbanians have finally felt winter. Well, what we call winter.  Some drizzle and cloud but mostly sunny yet crisp. Chilly even.

For some people, the slightest dip in the temperature is enough reason to curl up on the couch with a good book and an endless supply of hot chocolate.

Yet some powerful health benefits come from rugging up and stepping out into that brisker air for exercise.

  • Improved mood
  • Enhanced aerobic ability
  • Boostsed immune system.

These are just some of the benefits derived from laughter yoga also. I’ll come back to that in a moment but first, what is the research about spending time in parks actually saying?

Getting outside and moving boosts mood.  We’re not talking about taking on an epic day-long hike. Just minutes will do it.

A University of Queensland and ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions-led study, published in Nature Science Reports, has found people who spend 30 minutes  or more in parks weekly are less likely to have mental health issues or high blood pressure.

“If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week, there would be 7 per cent fewer cases of depression and 9 per cent fewer cases of high blood pressure,” researcher Danielle Shanahan says.

This supports overseas studies, including one published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal that found those who took a walk in the park for 30 minutes felt energised, revitalized and positive: 71 per cent said they felt less stressed while 72 per cent of another monitored group who walked their hard yards indoors on a treadmill felt more stressed.

University of Essex (UK) research, published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal , suggests  ‘substantial benefit’ from just 5 minutes of urban nature therapy.

“You get a very substantial bene?t from the ?rst ?ve minutes. We should be encouraging people in busy and stressed environments to get outside regularly, even for short bits of time,” says University of Essex (UK) research Jules Pretty.

Why these benefits from exercising outdoors

Being out and about in wintry daylight can help fight off ‘seasonal affective disorder’ or SAD, the extreme of winter blues, impacting on the body clock as well as mood.

SAD is thought to have a connection with a vitamin D deficiency.  Vitamin D is particularly important for bone health and the sun is the most effective natural way of getting a daily dose. Living in the Sunshine State of Queensland, we need to be careful of balancing vitamin D top-ups with being sun care aware, even on cooler winter days. Our laughter club at The Gap exercises before the sun’s rays are too harsh: bonus!

My personal trainer acknowledges that some people (like me!) respond better to the stimulus of the changing outdoor environment and achieve a better cardio workout as a result. I revel in the feel of the air and the sun and the changing sounds of birdsong: I lose track of the time that I’ve been working out. Similarly, for me,  laughter yoga sessions in the park pass in a blink.

Plus in exercising outside, you inhale fresh crisp air, not the recycled kind of the gym. And it feels good!

Given all of the above, it stands to reason that practising laughter yoga in a park will support — if not amplify — these benefits.

In Brisbane, our 3 community laughter clubs all meet in parks on Saturdays at New Farm Park, Banyo and  The Gap and our sessions run for between 30 and 45 minutes.

Why not find a laughter club near you and test my theory of more joy enjoyed outdoors?

(C) 2016 Heather Grant-Campbell aka Heather Joy