If you enjoy exercise but your true passion is laziness, we have exciting news for you. A study from the University of Westminster has found that watching horror movies can burn calories equivalent to a quick jog or a 30-minute walk – provided you’re willing to subject yourself to the scariest scenes ever put on screen.
Researchers measured the heart rate, oxygen intake, and carbon dioxide output of a small group of participants as they watched a handful of horror classics. Those who braved a full 90-minute movie were likely to burn up to 113 calories, which is a similar to the amount burned by a quick jog or a half-hour walk.
And the scarier the movie, the more calories it torched. The 1980s classic The Shining topped the list of calorie scorchers, followed by Jaws and The Exorcist. Films with a significant number of so-called “jump scares” were most likely to help burn calories, as they increased the heart rate dramatically.
“Each of the 10 films tested set pulses racing, sparking an increase in the heart rate of the case studies,” said study author Dr Richard Mackenzie. “As the pulse quickens and blood pumps around the body faster, the body experiences a surge in adrenaline. It is this release of fast-acting adrenaline, produced during short bursts of intense stress (or in this case, brought on by fear), which is known to lower the appetite, increase the basal metabolic rate and ultimately burn a higher level of calories.”
According to the research, the top 10 energy-burning horror movies are:
- The Shining: 184 calories
- Jaws: 161 calories
- The Exorcist: 158 calories
- Alien: 152 calories
- Saw: 133 calories
- A Nightmare On Elm Street: 118 calories
- Paranormal Activity: 111 calories
- The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 107 calories
- The Blair Witch Project: 105 calories
- [Rec]: 101 calories
Battling the bulge isn’t the only benefit to spooky cinema. A study from Coventry University found that watching a scary film can significantly increase people’s circulating levels of white blood cells, which fight disease and infection.
Margee Kerr, a sociologist and author of Scream: Chilling Adventures In the Science of Fear, says that high-arousal negative stimuli – like a good scare from a horror movie or a haunted house – can even elevate your mood. Following a scary experience, people feel less anxious, less frustrated, and happier. They may even feel a sense of accomplishment for surviving the scare and living to tell the tale.
Now would be a good time to update your Netflix queue.