It’s Oscar season so we want to spend every free moment in the cinema. But it’s also January, and loads of us have workout goals that we’re trying to hit as well. Luckily, a new study has found that the two things could go hand-in-hand.
According to scientists, going to the cinema actually counts as a light workout because being immersed in a film speeds up your heart rate. The research, carried out by University College London and paid for by Vue Cinemas, looked at 51 people who watched the 2019 live-action remake of Aladdin, using sensors to track heart rates and skin reactions.
The cinema-goers were then compared with 26 people who spent the same amount of time reading. In the cinema, people spent around 45 minutes in a ‘healthy heart zone’ with their heart beating between 40% and 80% of its maximum rate. Researchers said this is the same effect that light cardiovascular exercise would have on the body.
The hearts of everyone watching the film also appeared to synchronise and beat in unison, which could create a feeling of togetherness. Talk about bonding. The findings don’t mean that you can give up your gym membership and get an unlimited cinema card instead, you still need to actually move in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But it is interesting to see the physical impact of watching a film in a group.
The study also found going to the cinema can have benefits for our brain function, social connections, productivity and creativity. ‘Cultural experiences like going to the cinema provide opportunities for our brain to devote our undivided attention for sustained periods of time,’ says Dr Joseph Devlin, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL.
‘At the cinema specifically, there is nothing else to do except immerse yourself. ‘On top of this, our ability to sustain focus and attention plays a critical role in building our mental resilience, because problem-solving typically requires a concentrated effort to overcome obstacles. ‘In other words, our ability to work through problems without distraction makes us better able to solve problems and makes us more productive.
In a world where it is increasingly difficult to step away from our devices, this level of sustained focus is good for us.’ Activities with a shared social focus have also been proven to boost creativity, team performance and bonding with others, as well as reducing feelings of loneliness and depression.