Do horror movies have health benefits?

In the spirit of Halloween, I have noticed that everyone tends to be a little on edge: with creepy clowns, scary decorations, and horror movies galore, everyone’s anxieties are elevated. This got me thinking: when people are scared or nervous, they exert a lot more energy than they would being happy, calm, or lighthearted. So I began linking the feeling with ones that are similar to physical exercise, which is scary enough on its own. Is it possible to actually gain any health benefits from watching scary movies?

According to The Telegraph, the University of Westminster in London, England permed a study where they had people watch horror/thriller movies, and noting the bodily reactions. After watching some of these movies, it was noted that the people on average had burned over 100 calories, which can equate a brisk walk on the treadmill.

So watching scary movies can in fact burn calories! But how?

When people are scared or anxious, their heart rates quicken, their breathing rates increase, and they sweat. When a person’s heart rate increases, it helps blood circulate much faster around the body and increases the amount of adrenaline in the body – a great example of this is when you’re watching a movie with a “jump scare” – a sudden, spontaneous, frightening scene. A jump scare is so sudden that it can make your heart rate spike instantly, and forces all of these processes to happen essentially all at once. That experience can be similar to a sprint on a race track – your heart is already pumping blood faster than usual because you’re anxious and excited, and once you start sprinting and exerting so much force and energy almost immediately, it causes the heart to react in the same way.

So this Halloween, if you’re looking for easy ways to burn off the extra calories from all the halloween candy you ate, a good solution would be to sit back and watch AMC’s horror movie marathon on repeat.

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3 thoughts on “Do horror movies have health benefits?

  1. Christina Rae Locurto

    I’ll have to watch more horror movies now! Really fantastic blog post, with a very interesting hypothesis. I never thought about how horror movies can cause you to burn calories. It does make sense though, especially if you’re someone like me who gets scared very easily. I’m also glad the hypothesis you posed didn’t turn out to be a null hypothesis, in which nothing would be going on. Here is an article I discovered that goes more into details with how anxiety can attribute to weight loss. It’s not exactly the hypothesis you’re stating, but there is a strong correlation between the two. When you watch a horror movie, your anxiety levels increase, and you therefore burn more calories and potentially lose weight. Obviously you’re not going to drop 10 pounds from watching one scary movie, but it’s fascinating how something like a movie can have an effect like that.

  2. Evan Michael Wentzel

    In the spirit of Halloween I’ve also been watching a lot of horror movies, and constantly find myself on edge and sweating. It’s cool to see that you actually burn a decent amount of calories, just by watching a movie! My only question would be at what point does it become unhealthy? Burning calories solely due to anxiety and stress can’t be good for your body after a while, but I guess not many people marathon watch horror films so it most likely isn’t a problem. Overall your post did a great job of giving out pretty cool information and did a great job of describing the mechanism of how it all worked.

  3. rlw5445

    As an avid avoider of all things horror your blog really caught my attention. Anyone that knows me knows that I refuse to watch horror movies, however last weekend I got guilted by my friends to watch The Conjuring. My heart was racing the entire time and my friends who were sitting next to me on the couch kept commenting on the amount of body heat that was radiating off of me. I actually had to get up and walk around at one point because I was sweating. Reading your post allows me to connect the dots as to why that was happening. I would be curious to see if any other movie genre generated the same physical responses that would lead one to burn calories.

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