Horror movies tend to not be everyone’s cup of tea. It’s entirely understandable if you don’t want to spend your evening feeling scared. Surprisingly, studies have shown that horror movies can affect you in ways you might not imagine.

Burns Calories

One study from the University of Westminster shows that sitting down for 90 minutes of a cinematic thriller can burn more calories than a low-suspense flick. That should help you burn off some of that Halloween candy.

Those researchers monitored the heart rates, among other signs of stress, of the participants. The stress you undergo increases your heart rate and gives you a rush of adrenaline.

So, which movie do you burn the most calories during? According to the researchers, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 classic The Shining takes the prize, burning 184 calories over the course of the film. That’s roughly equal to a 30-minute walk!

Help with Anxiety and Fear

Horror movies can also help people with anxiety. In an interview with Broadly, Dr. Mathias Clasen explained how scary films help you cope with worries.

“Exposure to horror films can be gratifying when the negative emotions caused by the film are manageable. Moreover, there’s psychological distance when we watch a horror film. We know it’s not real — at least, some parts of our brain know it isn’t real.” – Dr. Mathias Clasen

This gives our brains a chance to deal with our anxieties, giving you a catharsis. Studies also show that movie-induced anxiety has positive connections to several parts of the brain. One of the reasons for this manageability is the fact that movies end. The protagonist may be killed by the monster, but you’re still safe.

As Dr. Clasen noted, “the genre allows us to voluntarily – and under controlled circumstances – get experience with negative emotion.”

Gives You an Immunity Boost

Scary movies can make you feel better, and also keep you healthier. Another finding of the calorie-burning study was that horror movies strengthen your immune system. One proposed reason for this is an increase in leukocytes, which protect the body against both infectious disease and foreign invaders

Researchers split the study’s participants into two groups. The first watched a horror film that none had seen before (1974’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre). The control group stay in a room quietly for the same amount of time. Afterwards, blood samples were drawn and studied. The scientists found that the first group had significant increases in leukocytes.

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If you hate horror movies, don’t feel bad. The way we deal with horror is all down to how we’re wired. Highly sensitive people (HSP) may have a more intense reaction to the film. Even if you aren’t an HSP, your body may simply react to stress differently.

Halloween is a time that we embrace what scares us most. Whether it’s vampires or ax-wielding maniacs, there’s a horror movie out there that’ll allow you to face that fear. Who would have thought that that could be a healthy choice? Now you have one more reason to pop in that terror-inducing flick you save for October every year!

Further Reading

Mathias Clasen — Monsters Evolve: A Biocultural Approach to Horror Stories
Mathias Clasen — The Horror! The Horror!