When it comes to health in later life, researchers find laughter may really be the best medicine. A new study – led by Georgia State University – suggests combining laughter with moderate exercise may improve the mental health of older adults, as well as boost their motivation and ability to engage in physical activity.

Lead author Celeste Greene, from the Gerontology Institute at Georgia State, and colleagues report their findings in The Gerontologist.

It is well established that physical activity at any age is beneficial for health. For older adults, regular physical activity can boost heart health, aid weight control, reduce diabetes risk, improve bone health, and maintain and grow muscle strength.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults aged 65 years and older should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (such as jogging) every week.

Additionally, seniors should engage in muscle-strengthening activities – such as sit-ups or simply carrying heavy bags – at least 2 days a week.

However, a recent study from the CDC found that more than 1 in 4 adults in the United States aged 50 and older – the equivalent to around 31 million Americans – do not engage in regular exercise.

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