If you’re looking for a way to shed some calories without the need for pesky exercise or dieting, look no further than whatever’s on your streaming service.
The University of Westminster conducted a study in 2012 looking into how much energy was burned by a select group of viewers tasked with watching some of the most beloved horror movies in film history. The group of hard-working scientists recorded the heart rate, oxygen intake and carbon dioxide output of the viewer while they watched the respective horror flick.
The study concluded that a viewer can burn up to 113 calories during a screening of an intense horror film which amounts to the calories burned “during a half-hour walk and the equivalent to a chocolate bar.” They also discovered that the number of calories used “increased by on average a third” during the screenings.
Films that utilize the ever-popular “jump scare” tactic are the best calorie burners as they cause a physical stimulation to the body by accelerating the viewer’s heart rate. Dr. Richard Mackenzie is a physiologist at the university and provided some scientific insight into this stimulation:
“Each of the ten films tested set pulses racing, sparking an increase in the heart rate of the case studies… 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.”
The study utilized 10 films from the 1970s to the 2000s. It also provided a range in the various sub-genres of horror including psychological, slasher and found footage with the recent Paranormal Activity besting the granddaddy of found footage, Blair Witch Project, by a few calories.
The top 3 terror-inducing films are arguably (and rightfully) the most well-known and praised horror films of the past few decades. The Stanley Kubrick-directed classic, The Shining placed #1 as the most effective calorie burner, managing to come in at an impressive 184 calories lost because really, who isn’t terrified by Jack Nicholson in The Shining? Jaws and The Exorcist round out the top 3 with only a few calorie differences lost between them.
Here are the top 10 films used in the study:
Calories lost while watching: 184.
Calories lost while watching: 161.
Calories lost while watching: 158.
Calories lost while watching: 152.
Calories lost while watching: 133.
Calories lost while watching: 118.
Calories lost while watching: 111.
Calories lost while watching: 105.
Calories lost while watching: 107.
Calories lost while watching: 101.
Movie rental company LOVEFiLM commissioned the study and its editor, Helen Cowley, describes how the study can potentially benefit viewers who already love freaking themselves out with horror:
“We all know the feeling of wanting to hide behind the sofa or grab a pillow when watching scary or hair raising scenes, but this research suggests that maybe those seeking to burn some calories should keep their eyes on the screen.”
So don’t fret about that extra chocolate bar you scarfed down this Halloween. Simply spend a night with Regan MacNeil or Freddy Krueger and you should be good to go…or you could just take a walk outside. Take a walk after the movie and then you’ll never have to go to the gym ever again.