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Rx for Humor: You know the old saying that ‘laughter is the best medicine?’ With dementia, it might be true. A recent Australian study looked at the impact of ‘humor therapy’ on mood, agitation, behavioral disturbances and social engagement in patients with dementia—and found a bit of adult playtime could decrease agitation by 20 percent. It may sound like a small effect, said lead researcher Lee-Fay Low. “But it’s about the same amount, the same effect, as you would get if you gave them an antipsychotic medication.”

In the study, Jean-Paul Bell—a former ‘clown doctor’ for children in hospitals and founder of Australia’s Arts Health Institute—brought his troupe of humor therapists to play games, sing songs and joke with elderly dementia patients in 36 Sydney nursing homes. ‘Interventions’ at each nursing home lasted 12 weeks. The project “really got them ‘out of themselves,’” said Bell.

It proved [to me] that when you have dementia, you don’t lose everything. You lose some things but what you do have left is capable of learning, growing and adapting. The mind is an incredibly flexible tool, even when under assault from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.”

Patients who participated in the study reported less agitation for up to 26 weeks after the program. Happiness and positive behaviors rose over the course of the program, but dropped as soon as the visits from the laugh docs ceased.

Less Intense Exercise Could Be Better: Middle-aged women report being happier with and more likely to stick to exercise programs that encourage moderate physical activity, compared to those that stress high intensity workouts. A new study, conducted at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey, monitored 255 women between 40 and 60 years old., and found those that participated in moderate intensity exercise had better moods and greater feelings of energy, well-being and ‘self efficacy’ afterwards. Those that had been directed to exercise more intensely showed smaller mood improvements overall; if they were overweight or ill, they felt significantly less calm after exercising.

Does that mean you should drop that Cardio Burn Bootcamp and get thee to a Gentle Yoga class? Not necessarily—if you dig intense activity, more power to you (you’re certainly doing your body good!). But if you feel overwhelmed by vigorous exercise, know that you’re not alone—and biking, canoeing, gardening, brisk walking, tennis, water aerobics, ballroom dancing and other forms of moderate exercise will still do your body good.

“Exercise makes you feel better but it is going to be more pleasant when performed at moderate intensity as compared to vigorous, especially when you have been previously inactive or may be overweight,” said lead author Dr. Steriani Elavsky. “Moderate intensity is sufficient, in fact, it is optimal.”

Friday Quick Hits: E. coli contaminated ground beef is being recalled in 14 states … Consuming a lot of eggs can up your prostate cancer risk significantly … Tobacco companies hid knowledge of radioactive substance in cigarettes for over four decades … And Bank of America will begin charging customers monthly fees for debit-card use.

See “In the News” for more on current events, entertainment and how it all relates to you.

(Photo: Australian Aging Agenda)

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