How Laughter Improves Your Health

How Laughter Improves Your Health

The phrase “laughter is the best medicine” is widely known, but how did it come about? What are the reasons behind its presumed healing properties? Apparently, there’s some science behind this old saying. Laughter really does have the ability to boost your wellness! Not only can it improve your mood, it can also encourage blood flow, heighten your immunity, increase your intellectual performance, and set you up for a better night’s rest.1 

Tomorrow is National “Let’s Laugh” Day. Make some time to go down to a comedy club or to watch your favorite comedy at home. As you’ll soon learn, a little joy can go a long way! 

Blood Flow Benefits

Laughter can actually impact your physiology. To examine this, the University of Maryland Medical Center invited volunteers to watch funny and disturbing movies. While watching the movie that produced mental stress, the group developed a reduction of blood flow from the narrowing of their blood vessels. The opposite reaction was observed when they watched a movie that made them laugh. Their blood vessels dilated which increased blood flow. 

The endothelium, the inner lining of the blood vessels that is expanding or constricting, plays an important role in cardiovascular health. It’s plausible that laughter can help keep it healthy which, in turn, can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.2 


Stress is known to lower your body’s ability to protect itself. Positive, stressreducing thoughts can release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.3 In addition to that, a study on laughter therapy found that laughing increases the number and activity level of natural killer cells that attack viral infected cells and even certain kinds of tumor and cancer cells.4 This means that laughter can naturally beef up your body’s defense mechanisms. Those are some powerful benefits!  

Intellectual Performance

Have you ever sat down to an exam, a difficult assignment, or a meeting, and felt too anxious to really give it your best? Laughter can help you improve your intellectual performance because it helps relieve your anxiety! In an experiment that tested this concept, participants who were exposed to funny cartoons before a mathematics exam performed better than participants who did not have this exposure.5 When anxiety cannot impair your thinking, it is easier to perform intellectual tasks. 

Better Sleep

Because laughter stimulates blood circulation and helps your muscles relax, physical symptoms of stress are allowed to dissipate.3 Reducing your stress levels can help your body reach the state of relaxation it needs in order to fall asleep and to sleep more restfully. A key finding among studies that examined laughter therapy and its effects on depression and sleep was that once a week was insufficient. Laughter therapy provided more than twice a week was shown to improve both depression and quality of sleep in participants.6 

It seems the old saying has some merit! Even if some of its effects are minor or gradual, there’s no doubt the body can benefit from a good laugh. Read up on more interesting health topics and stay in-the-know by subscribing to our monthly newsletter! 

Nutritious Green Foods You Didn’t Know About

Nutritious Green Foods You Didn’t Know About

Today we’re all about those healthy greens! We’ve got some interesting fruits and veggies to share, and they’re not your everyday choices. We’re pretty sure you’ll come across at least one you either haven’t heard of or haven’t considered putting on your plate! 

Good nutrition is all about variety, so pick out one of these fresh choices and see what delicious creation you can devise.

Nutritious Green Veggies


Purslane is technically an edible succulent. Its leaves are tender yet crisp and even the stem is edible. In many parts of the world, purslane is considered a weed and is plucked and discarded. Throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, however, it is widely consumed.1 Whether you regard it as a delicious veggie or a weed for the discard pile is up to your taste preferences.  

Purslane’s flavor is lemony and, when fresh, its texture holds up well to acidic salad dressings. Not only does it taste good, it’s highly nutritious. According to recent research, purslane contains significant levels of Omega-3 fatty acids (5 times more than spinach!) and more Vitamin A than any other leafy green vegetable! 

Enjoy purslane in a fresh salad, in your sandwich, or even in soups and stews. 

Turnip Greens

Turnips are a root vegetable and they’re commonly enjoyed fresh, cooked, or pickled. The star of the show today, however, is the green top! Turnip greens can be consumed as a cruciferous vegetable.  

Like other bitter greens, these will have to be boiled down to be palatable.2 The extra effort is worth it because the turnip top is even more nutritious than the root. According to Healthline, the greens contain significant amounts of Vitamin K, Vitamin C, Provitamin A (a substance that gets turned into Vitamin A), and Folate (which aids in the production of red blood cells). 

Try turnip greens sautéed or in a soup! 

Beet Greens

As with turnips, the beet root is the more commonly consumed part of this plant, but you don’t want to miss out on all the nutrients in the leafy green tops! Just one cup of these cooked greens offers 220% of the daily value of Vitamin A, 37% of the daily value of Potassium, and 17% of the daily value of fiber!3 

Unlike turnip greens, these are sweeter and have a similar flavor profile to spinach once they’ve been cooked. Raw, they’ll hold a slight but tolerable bitterness. Try them sautéed, in a salad, or in soup! 

Dandelion Greens

You may recognize these as difficult to eradicate weeds, but did you know the leafy parts, the roots, and even the flowers are edible?4 Assuming they haven’t been treated with chemicals or herbicides, dandelion greens can be a healthy addition to your plate!  

Per serving, they contain over 500% of your daily value of Vitamin K as well as high levels of Vitamins A and C.5 There’s even some research to support their ability to support healthy digestion and treat constipation.4  

Flavor-wise, these are slightly bitter. They can be best compared to the earthy flavors of endives and are often sautéed or braised to help cut the bitterness. 


Finally steering away from bitter greens, we’d like to introduce you to Kohlrabi. This is a small vegetable that has been a staple of German cuisine for centuries. It can be eaten raw or cooked and its flavor is similar to that of a broccoli stem.6  

Like many other cruciferous veggies, this little bulb is a good source of fiber. It’s also rich in antioxidants, iron, and potassium!6 

Use the root in the same way you might use carrots or broccoli, and the leaves in the same way you might use kale or spinach.

Nutritious Green Fruits


Despite its scaly appearance, this fruit is soft to the touch. Get past its artichoke-style exterior and you’ll find pockets of sweet and creamy fruit within! Because of its sweetness, cherimoya also goes by the colloquial name, “custard apple.” Be careful to avoid eating the skin and the seeds (they’re usually large and easy to see and remove). Both contain small amounts of toxins that can be harmful if consumed in large quantities 

Interesting benefits of this fruit include mood and immunity boosting properties. Vitamin B6 is important to the creation of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, and this fruit happens to have a generous amount of this essential vitamin!7 In terms of immune health, cherimoya’s high Vitamin C content can help bolster your body’s natural defenses. 

Chayote Squash

This fruit masquerades as a vegetable and is often used as one! Its mild, somewhat sweet, flavor makes it the star of many Mexican, Indian, and Latin American dishes.8 

In addition to a number of good vitamins and minerals, chayote squash has some possible medicinal qualities. While more research is needed to come to any definitive conclusions, there are records of chayote squash tea being used to lower blood pressure and to treat bloating.8 


This melon goes by many names and, while it isn’t green on the outside, it’s lime green inside earns it a spot on our list. You may have heard it going by the name “horned melon” or “African cucumber.”  

This fruit is great for keeping hydrated. Its water content is a whopping 88% and it also contains carbs and electrolytes that can help keep you fueled and hydrated after a hard workout.9 When it’s ripe, this melon tastes a bit like cucumber with a slight hint of banana. The easiest way to eat it is simply to cut it in half and spoon out the pulp. 

Do you have a favorite healthy recipe that highlights one of these fruits or veggies? Share your idea with us in the comments below! To stay in-the-know on trending health and nutrition topics, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog! 

From Craving Chocolate to Paving New Roads

From Craving Chocolate to Paving New Roads

“Back then, what I thought was healthy for me, wasn’t. I wanted to be healthier for my children and set a good example.

Waleska M.

Waleska is a mom with 2 part-time jobs who decided it was time to change the direction her weight was headed. In our interview with her, she shares how, even when surrounded by unhealthy food choices, she was able to decide on a lifestyle change and stick to it until she lost over 60 pounds! If you’re worried that you can’t make time for your health goals or that your environment hosts too many temptations to set you up for success, you need to read Waleska’s story! 

From Craving Chocolate to Paving New Roads 

My fitness journey started about 5 years ago,” explains Waleska. I was very overweight, and I realized I had to make a change when I gained 20 pounds in a single month. At the time, I worked for a chocolate company. I ate many chocolate chip cookies, drank hot chocolate, ate ice cream, and just overate when I was bored; but the chocolate boutique was the culprit. 

Back then, what I thought was healthy for me, wasn’t. I wanted to be healthier for my children and set a good example. 

Early Mornings at the Gym 

Once she realized her health was on the line and decided to be healthier for her kids, she started to plan around her existing schedule. My fitness routine starts in the morning right after my kids leave for school [and] I try to get it done before I start work. 

I first start off with a 5-10 min warm up on the treadmill or elliptical. I like to mix it up to avoid boredom, so I tend to alternate between lifting and calisthenics. I like to do overhead presses with squats, bicep curls, deadlifts, and chest flies. If I can’t make it to the gym, I try to do a 30minute workout video from YouTube like “Strong by Zumba. 

The important trend to notice here is in Waleska’s commitment to consistency. If she can fit gym time into her schedule, she’s got a backup plan and she sticks to it! 

 The Goal to Inspire 

Oftentimes we worry that we’ll have a hard time adjusting or adhering to whatever health goal we’re trying to accomplish. However, Waleska’s experience is a great example of how a healthy lifestyle is possible when you focus on what you love about it.

I enjoy working out and I’ve lost more than 60 pounds with physical activity and by watching what I eat,” she explains. I enjoy working with others, so I am currently studying to become a personal trainer to help others with their journey.  

In the end, the most important thing is that you “never give up” and that you “keep going, she exclaims. We all have the power within us to succeed in what we want to do! 

Do you have an inspirational story you’d like to share with us? Email us at for a chance to be featured in an upcoming post! 

For grammatical correctness, length, and clarity, minor edits – none of which alter the original or intended meaning – have been made to the quotes provided. 

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LA Fitness Holiday Hours 2021

LA Fitness Holiday Hours 2021

LA Fitness will be open for parts of the Holiday Season! Modified clubs hours are below!Holiday Hours (U.S.) Friday, December 24th: 8AM - Noon Saturday, December 25th: Closed Friday, December 31st: 8AM - 6PM Saturday, January 1st: 8AM - 6PM Holiday Hours (Canada)...

Salt Grains for Muscle Gains?

Salt Grains for Muscle Gains?

Looking into the Potential Strength Benefits of Sodium

Salt has been called the “secret weapon in the gym” and “the newest workout supplement1.” The white granules known as table salt (also sea, kosher, or Himalayan salt) in your kitchen are simply sodium and chloride put together. By itself, sodium is one of several critical electrolytes which are minerals that affect the body’s fluid balance, muscle and nerve impulses, blood pressure and acidbase balance.  

Though human requirements are only 300-500 milligrams of sodium daily, the average American consumes ten times that – over 3,400 mg2! It’s well known that athletes have a higher need for sodium, mainly due to sweat losses. However, competitive athletes also train hours a day (and the majority not resistance work) compared to the average person in the weight room. So then, we wondered where the hype about extra sodium came from. Does liberally salting nearly everything you put in your mouth help you pump more iron in the gym?

The Strength Training Community 

Reading through three online sources3,4,5 touting the benefits of salt for size and strength it would appear that we’ve missed out on the key to bodybuilding success! Sodium increases blood volume and intracellular water retention. True, but sodium just doing its job for fluid status and muscle contraction doesn’t mean more salt enhances power and strength for greater gains. None of those articles provide evidence-based references or citations to support these supposed enhancements. (Sodium phosphate is a different molecule that is mentioned as an intracellular buffer that can increase aerobic and anaerobic performance when supplemented3.) The authors do agree that although you shouldn’t limit sodium, you don’t need supplemental salt for strength gains, just ample dietary consumption. A fourth bodybuilding source6 advises not to add excessive sodium to meals and shares that it’s more important to have potassium in balance with sodium intake.  

Sports Nutrition Experts  

We asked Jennifer McDaniel, RDN, a Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD), in the St. Louis, Missouri area if strength athletes and power lifters need additional sodium beyond that in the typical American diet. She informed us that sodium requirements vary significantly based on intensity and time of training session, sweat rate and acclimation to the training environment. “Based on the current research available, strength-based athletes do not need more than the average intake of sodium from the typical Western diet,” McDaniel said. She explained that most athletes’ eating habits far exceed the recommended limit of 2,300 mg sodium* per day making it unlikely that strength trained athletes would need an increase in daily sodium for the average hourlong training bout.  

* for the general public, from the 2015-2020 US Dietary Guidelines7.  

Also, nationally known, Marie Spano, RD, CSSD and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist®, gave us her input regarding athletes’ sodium needs. She shared that dehydration can decrease strength and power. “Your muscles need sodium to hold on to more fluid and for muscular contractions, so consume adequate sodium to cover sodium losses through sweat,” Spano advises.  She previously wrote, “To achieve proper hydration, athletes may want to add sodium to their sports drinks or preworkout meals to help retain the fluid they’re consuming.8 The amount depends on total dietary sodium intake and sodium losses through sweat while training in a particular environment.  

Professional Organizations  

American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) 2016 position stand and The International Society of Sport Nutrition’s (ISSN) 2018 research and recommendation update both addressed sodium. Regarding hydration, the ACSM indicated, “Sodium consumed in pre-exercise fluids and foods may help with fluid retention, and advised ingesting sodium during exercise when large sweat losses occur9. The ISSN stated that inadequate sodium would impair performance and advised replacing adequate amounts due to sweat losses10. In regard to extra sodium the Society indicated it was beneficial for hydration in the early days of training in the heat10.  

Neither ACSM or ISSN directly mentioned sodium involved in strength, power, weight training or muscle mass. In fact, the ISSN didn’t list any sodium compounds as “muscle building supplements” based on available literature but did name sodium bicarbonate and sodium phosphate under the “performance enhancement” category, noting there was strong evidence to support their efficacy10. The Society also indicated limited or mixed evidence to support the efficacy of [sodium] nitrates to improve aerobic work performance and endurance exercise10. 

Evidence from Scientific Research 

Being that salt is everywhere in our diet, research on supplemental sodium chloride solely for muscle strength or growth is lacking. Sodium bicarbonate, on the other hand, is not easily obtained from food and has evidence as a modestly effective sports nutrition supplement for short-term, high intensity exercise (anaerobic work) performance11,12. Benefits are most likely due to its action as an extracellular (blood) buffer11. Sodium citrate is a potential alternative buffer, but with unknown effectiveness. For endurance work, sodium phosphate may enhance performance12.  

The Final Word 

So, it seems the hype surrounding salt for strength comes from the importance of sodium for hydration and muscular contraction. Most people generally get enough of it in the form of sodium chloride, more of which doesn’t help strength gains as long as dehydration is prevented, particularly for training sessions that are very long or in the heat. Other sodium molecules consumed as sports nutrition supplements may offer ergogenic effects that can’t be derived from table salt, namely sodium bicarbonate for anaerobic work. The consensus is not to limit salt if you’re intensely resistance training, but you don’t need to intentionally use the saltshaker everywhere either. Consider just drinking a higher sodium fluid electrolyte beverage pre-workout. 

10 Everyday Items That are Covered in Germs

10 Everyday Items That are Covered in Germs

Good health starts with good hygiene practices. Many of these everyday items are not our first thought when we think of germs, but if you know it’s there, you can do more to protect yourself from illnesscausing pathogens. Promote healthy living by keeping your immune system strong with nutritious food and regular exercise, and by washing your hands often (especially after touching or using any of these germy everyday items). 


Cash is notoriously germy and can carry potential pathogens like E. Coli, Staph bacteria, and salmonella.1 While you won’t get sick just from touching it, you can get sick if you eat or if you touch your nose or mouth before washing your hands.


Be truthful with yourself for just a minute. Has your phone accompanied you to the bathroom even once? Even if it hasn’t, research has found that phones carry tons of bacteria, including the kind that cause strep throat, the flu, and yeast infections.2 It’s a good idea to sanitize your phone regularly! You can use an alcohol-based wipe or a cotton ball with a light coating of rubbing alcohol.

Your Purse, Backpack, or Wallet

These items go everywhere with you. Your purse or backpack will often go to the bathroom with you, get set on the floor, and carry germy items like your phone and cash. Your wallet is no exception, especially if you carry it in your pocket where the warmth and humidity created by your body provides the right environment for bacterial growth.

Pin Pads

Every time you purchase something and use a pin pad or other electronic check-out device, you are touching something that hundreds of others have touched too. They aren’t sanitized between each guest, so we’re not surprised at the research that states there are as many bacteria on pin pads as there are on toilet seats!3

Remote Control

When you get home and just want to wind down with some of your favorite shows, you may want to consider what’s living on your remote control. When was the last time you wiped it down? If you’ve ever munched on snacks while watching T.V., you may have grabbed the remote to turn down the volume or changed the channel when your hands weren’t exactly clean. We all know what loves to live on sticky, oily, foodcovered surfaces.

The Gasoline Pump

The gas pump is packed with germs, probably because they’re never or rarely cleaned! A study by the University of Arizona found astoundingly high numbers of microbes on gas pump handles. 71% of the inspected handles had microbes associated with illness and disease.4

Refrigerator and Microwave Doors

For the same reason you want to clean other surfaces that come into contact with food, you’ll want to clean your refrigerator and microwave doors. Not only are they commonly touched, but you may be touching them when you’re in the middle of food prep. Washing your hands before you eat is a good way to keep bacteria that was on your hands from entering your body. Follow the same principle for the surfaces you touch just before you eat.

Air Dryers

Air dryers in public restrooms circulate the bacteria in the air and deposit it on your freshly washed hands. According to Healthline, the bacteria doesn’t come from within the air dryer itself. The movement of air essentially collects the freefloating bacteria5 (which is already going to be more plentiful in a public space). Your best bet is to dry with paper towels. Fortunately, more and more tree-free products are hitting the market, so you don’t have to feel too guilty.

Toothbrush Holders

Because it’s so close to the toilet, your toothbrush holder can be teaming with bacteria. One flush can unleash fecescontaining aerosols6 from the toilet and release them into the bathroom where they can land on anything. Considering it holds a brush that goes in your mouth, try sanitizing it by popping it in the dishwasher (if it’s dishwasher safe) or washing it with hot soapy water. 

For more articles like this one, and to keep up to date on our fitness, nutrition, and wellness articles, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, today! 



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