As healthy as a couch potato
New research suggests that a trip to the cinema might be equivalent to a light workout
Are you chronically slothful? Antisocial? Do you favour dim lights, confined spaces, and the unobtrusive company of like-minded strangers? If these flaws are compounded (or begotten) by chronic cinephilia, the results of a recent study conducted by researchers at University College London may yet absolve you in the eyes of your orthorexic critics.
Fifty-one test subjects were hooked up to sensors that monitored their cardiovascular activity over the course of a 128-minute movie. It transpired that, relative to the 26-man control group that was conscripted to read novels for the same duration, the moviegoers experienced elevated heart rates equivalent to the vascular tempi induced by light exercise.
This is not the first academically ratified indication that a trip to the cinema might have a salutary effect on your overall wellbeing. Gary Solomon — a professor of psychology, and the author of such pun-laden expositions as Reel Therapy: How Movies Inspire You to Overcome Life’s Problems — has long attested to the cathartic potential of cinema. According to the proponents of what Solomon has dubbed “cinematherapy”, movies facilitate a mode of vicarious emotional engagement, which in turn engenders personal breakthroughs by proxy. Other champions of the indolent have posited that excursions to the cinema are a foil to our phone-impaired concentration spans, as audiences typically attend to on-screen action until the credits roll.
All the same — and though I am myself constitutionally inert and idle — I would not recommend that you retire your dejected Fitbit on the instant. There are several factors that compromise the integrity of the University College London study; the most damning is that it was funded by Vue Cinemas, a syndicate which presumably expected a return on its generous investment in the sciences. “Light exercise” is also a dubious yardstick — gardening qualifies as light exercise; so too does standing and shuffling from fridge to couch.
I’m also harbouring a theory that the vascular fluctuations that constitute the team’s data might be attributable to the fact that the movie in question was the live-action version of Aladdin — and prolonged and relentless suffering is liable to elevate your heart rate, too.