A study at Oxford University found that laughing causes the body to release the same endorphins as exercising, resulting in the feelings of euphoria mixed with serenity that many endurance athletes report experiencing.

This is no surprise to practitioners of Laughter Yoga, an exercise routine that combines laughing with breathing exercises, said Minneapolis teacher Jody Ross. “It’s nice to have Oxford confirm something we’ve been seeing anecdotally,” said the founder of the Linden Hills Free Laughter Club (www.laughtercenter.com), which, with 420 members, is the largest in the U.S.

The laughs can’t be what researchers called “polite titters.” For maximum effect, you need full-fledged belly laughs to give the diaphragm a workout. Ross and researchers also agree that the endorphins released by laughing can help offset pain.