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January 13, 2020

You can get a workout by watching a movie – if you're at the theater

Heart rates increase at least 40% above resting levels, study finds

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Watching a movie in the theater may be good for you Krists Luhaers/

Watching a movie at a theater is equivalent to a light workout – like a brisk walk – according to a British study.

If you prefer going to the movies to hitting the gym, a new study provides some good news.

The cinematic experience can increase a viewer's heart rate to the levels typically observed during a light cardiovascular workout, according to researchers from the University College London.

Researchers used sensors to track the heart rates of 51 people watching the 2019 live-action remake of "Aladdin." For about 45 minutes of the movie, the viewers' heart rates rose 40% to 80% higher than the maximum normal resting heart rate. 

That's equivalent to taking a brisk walk or gardening, researchers said. According to the Mayo Clinic, the normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60 to 100 beats per minute.

The study, paid for by Vue Cinemas, compared the moviegoers' heart rates to a group of 26 participants who spent the same amount of time reading.

Additionally, the movie viewers' heart beats appeared to synchronize as they became fully absorbed into the film. According to researchers, the immersion into another world increases a person's ability to focus and improves problem-solving skills in ways that watching a movie at home – where there are additional distractions – cannot.  

"Cultural experiences like going to the cinema provide opportunities for our brain to devote our undivided attention for sustained periods of time," Dr. Joseph Devlin, a neuroscience professor at the University College London, told the DailyMail, adding that this is important for building mental resilience.

Before you cancel your gym membership, keep in mind that to maintain a healthy lifestyle a little more intensity is needed in your workouts. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise – or some combination of the two.

But at least now you can feel less guilty about spending the afternoon in the movie theater, right?

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