Horror movies rock. Who doesn't love that moment when a crazed Jack Nicholson hacks through a door with an axe and pops up saying "Hereeeee's Johnny"! Now there's another reason to love horror flicks — scientists say we can burn calories as we watch.
We all know that familiar adrenaline rush when a terrifying scene makes us flinch, right? A new study by the University of Westminster in the United Kingdom says that adrenaline rush is what can help us burn around 113 calories during an average 90-minute horror movie. That's as much as you might burn on a half hour walk or equivalent to a chocolate bar.
Researchers measured the total energy expenditure of ten different people as they watched various frightening movies. They recorded heart rate, oxygen intakes and carbon dioxide output and found the number of calories being burned increased on average a third while watching the movies.
It's those moments when we totally freak out and our heart rates soar that do the trick. Dr Richard Mackenzie, senior lecturer and specialist in cell metabolism and physiology at the University of Westminster, explains how it works in The Telegraph:
"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."
According to the University of Westminster study, which was commissioned by a movie rental company (who must be pretty happy with this news), the top ten calorie-burning terror flicks were:
1. The Shining: 184 calories
2. Jaws: 161 calories
3. The Exorcist: 158 calories
4. Alien: 152 calories
5. Saw: 133 calories
6. A Nightmare on Elm Street: 118 calories
7. Paranormal Activity: 111 calories
8. The Blair Witch Project: 105 calories
9. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre: 107 calories
10. [Rec]: 101 calories
Most people are going to watch horror movies just because they love the genre and being scared witless. If you aren't a fan of the genre, but are thinking about converting and bringing a carton of Ben & Jerry's with you just remember these numbers are averages — your body's metabolism might lie anywhere in the spectrum.
Still, the idea that watching Jaws is working for our waistlines on some level as well as making us yearn for a bigger boat is pretty cool.