New Study Claims That Watching Movies Counts As Exercise

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

If like me, you loathe the prospect of exercise, and would much rather spend your time sat in the comfy confines of your home cinema, queueing up your seventeenth biannual Beverly Hills Cop marathon, and you love sentences of infuriatingly numerous commas and unreadably absurd lengths (OK, I made that one up), then like me you’ll be delighted to hear this latest bit of news.

Keep a straight face while reading it, though. It’s very serious. Morgan Freeman is doing the voiceover.

A new study, conducted by University College London and reported by The Times, purportedly claims that sitting in the theatre watching a film can count as exercise. Specifically, it would count as a “light form of cardio.” What a wonderfully hokey piece of spin. Like describing the Thirty Years’ War as a minor skirmish. “Light form of cardio” or, in other words, breathing. The same kind of cardio I do when I’m texting. They also say that “it could provide a boost for your heart and benefit memory and concentration.”

As The Digital Weekly explains:

A study showed that watching movies is equivalent to light cardiovascular exercise. Watching an emotional scene from a film not only increases your heart rate but also improves your brain health and your ability to concentrate. However, the study points out that watching movies in theatres is a more effective form of exercise, and no, this is not because the calories are running in the cinema. In a movie theatre, the public is less distracted and can invest more emotionally in the movie.

Times revealed [more] details of the experiment. The studio focused on 51 filmmakers while watching Aladdin live in theatres. Participants in the control group read a novel. Each participant wore sensors that indicated body temperature, heart rate, and skin response. For a 45-minute movie, the heart rate ranges from 40 to 80 percent, just as fast it will have to be. The moviegoers also synchronized the heart rate and emotional response of the skin during the particularly intense moments of the film. If Aladdin is a quick walk, Avengers: Endgame should be a marathon.

Of course, you probably don’t need me to tell you this, but we obviously shouldn’t take this study to mean we should be replacing the scant time we do make to – you know, actually move – with additional trips to AMC. I make no secret about my distaste for fit-bit-ism, but even the under-active need a break from endless Hot Fuzz repeats sometimes. Light forms of cardio, including the involuntary physical processes associated with existing, aren’t going to keep me from an inertia-induced early death.

To be fair, the study does make a few valid points when it comes to how watching films can be beneficial to your brain, especially if they’re the kind that make you think and force you to pay attention, but let’s be honest here: watching Netflix isn’t a workout, even if students want you to think it is.