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Why I love to laugh in the park in winter


Did the weekend’s dip in temperature in south-east Queensland send you snuggling under the doona a little more in the morning?

That’s a natural reaction when we live in subtropical Brisbane. Yet powerful health benefits come from rugging up and stepping out into that brisk air for exercise:

·         Improved mood

·         Enhanced aerobic ability

·         Boosted immune system.

Interestingly, these are also some of the benefits of laughter yoga.

Here’s what some of the research says about why exercising outdoors is beneficial. 

A University of Queensland and ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions-led study, published in Nature Science Reports, 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,” research 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.

Why these benefits from exercising outdoors in winter

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!

Some people (like me) respond better to the stimulus of a changing outdoor environment rather than muzak and reflected mirror images of huffing and puffing. I revel in the feel of the air and the sun and the changing sounds of birdsong and leaves rustling: 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.

With 3 laughter clubs in and around Brisbane held outdoors (and another 3 indoors—and you will have to venture out of bed to get to them), there’s great opportunity to laugh for wellbeing and reap the benefits of a fresh winter day.  

I’m sold! I’m outta here for a walk in the park and a laugh…

Find out more about laughter club locations in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia. Find out how to set up a club in your community.

(c) HeatherJoy Campbell, 2018

Founder of The Happydemic Heather Joy Campbell is a certified laughter yoga teacher and global ambassador of Laughter Yoga International. Based in Brisbane, Australia, she travels throughout Queensland facilitating workshops in workplaces and at conferences, and training laughter leaders for community and aged care. She’s founding coordinator of The Gap Laughter Club in Brisbane.