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HARRY WALLOP watches six recent blockbusters to find out which ones helps you burn the most calories

Don’t drop your popcorn — if new research is to be believed, going to the cinema is as healthy as working out at the gym.

In a report released last week by scientists at University College London, they explained how they saw a ‘noticeable increase’ in the heart rates of 51 cinemagoers who viewed a two-hour film, and described it as ‘equivalent to a light form of cardio’.

They added the beneficial effects were far greater in a cinema than watching a film on your TV at home because you are forced to switch off from other distractions, such as your phone, and focus on the big screen. 

In a report released last week by scientists at University College London, they explained how they saw a ‘noticeable increase’ in the heart rates of 51 cinemagoers who viewed a two-hour film, and described it as ‘equivalent to a light form of cardio’. Pictured: 1917

So is watching Chariots Of Fire really comparable to going for a run? If I immerse myself in (another) Fast & Furious movie, could I possibly end up with muscles as big as those of Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson?

To put their theory to the test, I went to the cinema to watch six films that have been nominated for best picture at this year’s Academy Awards.

To really interrogate the science, I strapped myself to a personal ECG (electrocardiogram) monitor, which measured my heart rate — both the average during the film and any peaks and troughs.

I also used a Fitbit Versa watch, a sophisticated fitness tracker that can correlate my heart rate with my weight and height to analyse how many calories I burned during each film.

For comparison, I also measured my ‘normal’ resting heart rate (when you are sitting still and doing nothing), which ranges between 66 beats per minute and 73bpm — considered pretty healthy for a 45-year-old.

During a half-hour run this week, when I really tried to push myself and ended up in a muck sweat, my heart rate averaged 157bpm and peaked at 168bpm.

But could a film — even an Oscar-nominated one — possibly get close to that?

1917: 147 calories burned during Sam Mendes's masterpiece about the Western Front in World War I

1917: 147 calories burned during Sam Mendes’s masterpiece about the Western Front in World War I

1917

Film length: 1hr 49mins.

Average heart rate: 73bpm.

Peak: 130bpm.

Calories burned: 147, or 67 per cent of a small carton of salt popcorn. (Equal to 12.9 minutes of running.)

Calories per hour: 81.

Almost every minute of 1917 filled me with low-level anxiety at best, terror at worse. 

I left this film a wreck, with my heart pumping, my tear ducts wet and in complete awe at how much drama Sam Mendes, the director, had wrung out of a pretty simple plot about the Western Front in World War I.

I was therefore not surprised, analysing the graph, that during the climax of the film my heart rate climbed and climbed: I was burning fat for eight minutes solid, according to the analysis, and in the incredibly tense showdown between the young star George MacKay and Benedict Cumberbatch my rate peaked at 130bpm. 

The British Heart Foundation reckons a resting heart rate of over 120bpm is a concern.

Forget how many Oscars this film is going to win, watch 1917 for a proper workout.

Little Women: What an enchanting adaptation of this famous story of women finding their place in a man's world

Little Women: What an enchanting adaptation of this famous story of women finding their place in a man’s world

Little Women

Film length: 2hrs 15mins.

Average heart rate: 64bpm.

Peak: 84bpm.

Calories burned: 153, or 70 per cent of a small salt popcorn (13.5 mins of running).

Calories per hour: 68.

What an enchanting adaptation of this famous story of women finding their place in a man’s world.

Saoirse Ronan lights up the screen as Jo, the aspiring writer, but did she get my pulse racing? Metaphorically, yes. Physiologically, no.

Watching Little Women was akin to sipping on a mug of cocoa. I may have shed a tear at one point and yearned for the March family’s happiness, but my heart rate never went higher than a very gentle 84bpm.

A great film, but even a gentle hour-long session of Pilates would burn more calories (roughly 200).

Jojo Rabbit is a war film involving the lanky Stephen Merchant, Rebel Wilson, a comedy Hitler, some David Bowie and an astonishing performance by the 12-year-old British actor Roman Griffin Davis

Jojo Rabbit is a war film involving the lanky Stephen Merchant, Rebel Wilson, a comedy Hitler, some David Bowie and an astonishing performance by the 12-year-old British actor Roman Griffin Davis

Jojo Rabbit

Film length: 1hr 49mins.

Average heart rate: 64bpm.

Peak: 81bpm.

Calories burned: 120, or 55 per cent of a small salt popcorn (ten minutes of running).

Calories per hour: 66.

What a strange, quirky movie — a war film involving the lanky Stephen Merchant (yes, him from The Office), Rebel Wilson, a comedy Hitler, some David Bowie and an astonishing performance by the 12-year-old British actor Roman Griffin Davis.

My wife thought it was beautiful and touching. I wasn’t convinced and nearly drifted off at one point. 

Which may explain why I burned just 19 calories more than if I’d been fast asleep (101 calories).

The performance by Adam Driver, the husband — more famous as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars franchise — is a knock-out opposite Scarlett Johansson as the wife

The performance by Adam Driver, the husband — more famous as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars franchise — is a knock-out opposite Scarlett Johansson as the wife

Marriage Story

Film length: 2hrs 12mins.

Average heart rate: 68bpm.

Peak: 84bpm.

Calories burned: 156, or 71 per cent of a small salt popcorn (13.7 minutes of running).

Calories per hour: 71.

This is two hours of pain — a relationship unravelling, the Kramer vs Kramer for a new generation and uncomfortable viewing. 

Even if the performance by Adam Driver, the husband — more famous as Kylo Ren in the Star Wars franchise — is a knock-out opposite Scarlett Johansson as the wife.

Though I was moved by and engrossed in the film, its emotional peaks and troughs were quite subtle and I didn’t feel anywhere near as drained as I did after watching 1917.

A great film to make you work on your relationship — but not your fitness.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood burned 184 calories during its running time of just over two-and-a-half hours

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood burned 184 calories during its running time of just over two-and-a-half hours

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Film length: 2hrs 36mins.

Average heart rate: 70bpm.

Peak: 157bpm.

Calories burned: 184, or 84 per cent of a small salt popcorn (16.2 minutes of running).

Calories per hour: 71.

Is this Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, or a self-indulgent bloated piece of cinema?

I’m more in the second camp, with moments during the viewing when I thought I had been trapped in the cinema for more than two days, not two hours.

In terms of evoking tension, it’s a mixed bag.

Sure, Brad Pitt with his shirt off is pleasing on the eyes, and some of the 1969 period details are lovingly captured, but a lot of this just dragged.

That was until it suddenly got shockingly violent, which explains the sharp spike in my heart rate. But on a per-hour basis, watching this won’t get you Pitt’s pecs.

Joker tells the backstory of Batman's arch-enemy, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who gives an undoubted tour de force performance as the troubled loser who lives with his mother

Joker tells the backstory of Batman’s arch-enemy, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who gives an undoubted tour de force performance as the troubled loser who lives with his mother

Joker

Film length: 1hr 55mins.

Average heart rate: 64bpm.

Peak: 121bpm.

Calories burned: 147, or 67 per cent of a small salt popcorn (12.9 minutes of running).

Calories per hour: 77.

I can’t say I enjoyed this gritty, violent superhero film without a superhero. 

Joker tells the backstory of Batman’s arch-enemy, played by Joaquin Phoenix, who gives an undoubted tour de force performance as the troubled loser who lives with his mother.

The intense mood (helped by the Hildur Guonadottir score), and occasional grisly moments that made me jump, meant that my heart was kept pumping throughout, even if I wasn’t loving what I was watching.

And the WINNER is…

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, with 184 calories burned during its running time of just over two-and-a-half hours, a fair chunk of the total 907 calories — or 4.1 bags of salted popcorn — I used up during the six movies.

Still, if you are seeking the most efficient cinema workout, go to see 1917, which burned 81 calories per hour.

It’s a shame no one has ever thought to remake Seventies classic Marathon Man, which would surely burn lots of calories.  

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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