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Funny Movies Are Good For Your Heart Health

09/12/2011 07:47 EDT | Updated 11/06/2011 05:12 EST
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What movies are in your Netflix queue? Are you more of a Hangover kind of person, or would you rather watch a war movie? If you had the choice between Bridesmaids and Saw, which would you pick?

Recent studies show the type of movies you watch can affect your heart health and funny movies are better for your ticker than gory, action-packed films.

That's according to research led by Dr. Michael Miller from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He and his colleagues exposed research participants to clips from There's Something About Mary and Saving Private Ryan on different days. Through a series of over 300 complex measurements, they found the stressful movie can cause an unhealthy response called vasoconstriction -- constriction of the blood vessels, causing reduced blood flow.

Funny movies, on the other hand, had the opposite effect -- blood vessels expanded. "The magnitude of change we saw in the endothelium after laughing was consistent and similar to the benefit we might see with aerobic exercise or statin use," Miller told Science Daily. The endothelium is the layer of cells that lines the walls of blood vessels and regulates blood flow.

So does this mean laughing can do just as much good for you as an aerobics class? Not quite. Laughter burns about 1.3 calories a minute, so an hour of straight laughing would only burn about 78 calories. An hour of an intense cardio workout can burn anywhere between 350 and 800 calories. Some studies have found regular laughter can help you lose weight, but with laughter alone, we're talking about four pounds of weight loss a year.

So you can't replace spin class with a night at the movies, but laughter does seem to be an important part of a healthy lifestyle. "It is very possible that laughing on a regular basis may be useful to incorporate as part of an overall healthy lifestyle to prevent heart disease. In other words, eat your veggies, exercise and get a good belly laugh every day," adds Miller.

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