Watching a game can tire your heart as much as exercise

The excitement of watching a close game could have the same effect on your heart that exercise does, a new study has found.

Researchers from Royal West Academy in Canada found that experiencing the joy of a victory or the heartbreak of a defeat can put your cardiovascular system through the wringer.

The heart rates of fans who watch the action on television go up by 75 percent during the heat of the moment while those that experience it in person feel a whopping 110 percent increase.

Experts cautioning that doctors need to warn patients who have ill heart health about the potential dangers linked to watching sporting events they are invested in.

A new report has found that watching sporting events can raise your heart rate as much as a vigorous workout (file photo)

For the study researchers measured the pulse of healthy people who either tuned in to or watched first-hand a Montreal Canadiens hockey game.

Beforehand, participants had to fill out a survey, which took into consideration not only their health but also the level of passion they felt for the team they were cheering for.

The study referred to the questionnaire as ‘a method of calculating how invested a person is in the team’.

They found that the heart rates of those who watched the game on television increased as much as they would were the participants to do a moderately difficult workout.

And those who witnessed it live experienced a heart rate increase similar to that which accompanies a vigorous workout.


Modern technologies have made it easier to track the amount of exercise one gets throughout the day.

Wristbands, such as Fitbits, can keep a record of your heart rate, the amount of calories you burn and the amount of steps you take each day.

The gadgets can also help you monitor your weight, your sleep patterns and the food you eat.

Fitbits encourage wearers to hit 10,000 steps each day, which equals about five miles.

Other brands of wearable fitness trackers include:

  • Apple Watch
  • Microsoft Band
  • Samsung Gear S2
  • PulseOn 

‘The study raises the potential that the emotional stress-induced response of viewing a hockey game can trigger adverse cardiovascular events on a population level,’ researcher Dr Paul Khairy said.

He continued: ‘Therefore, the results have important public health implications.’

While many might think that the moment during the game which had the most intense effect on participants’ heart rate was towards the end, the researchers found this was not the case.

Rather, they discovered that fans’ heart rates rose anytime there was a scoring opportunity, as well as during overtime.

Dr Khairy said: ‘Our analysis of elements of the hockey game associated with peak heart rates supports the notion that it is not the outcome of the game that primarily determines the intensity of the emotional stress response but rather the excitement experienced with viewing high-stakes or high-intensity portions of the game.’

Previous research has proven that people with coronary artery disease are more likely to experience cardiovascular complications while watching sporting events.

Researchers who worked on the report mentioned that this evidence should encourage doctors to warn high-risk patients about what could happen should they watch a game they are invested in.

‘As outlined, watching an exciting hockey game might trigger a cardiovascular event in an individual at risk,’ the study says.

The report continues: ‘The danger is particularly high in the arena and at the dramatic moments such as overtime. At-risk patients should be warned about potential cardiovascular symptoms and should be instructed to seek medical attention promptly if symptoms develop.’