University College London researchers tracked heart rate, electrodermal activity, and body temperature of two different groups: one that watched Aladdin at a London theater and one that read a novel for the same amount of time. They found that the moviegoers were involved in a form of low-intensity cardio, and they spent an average of 40 minutes in their healthy heart zone, defined as 40 to 80 percent of the maximum heart rate for one’s age.
Researchers theorized that these benefits are due to the fact that movie theaters are one of the few places in which we aren’t practicing “media multi-tasking,” thanks to the immersive aspect of the theater experience (and the fact that using your phone during a movie is definitely dickish behavior.
Of course, it’s not like watching Bad Boys for Life will suddenly give you Will Smith‘s impressive 51-year-old physique. And watching less dramatic, less plot-driven film would also likely lessen the potential health benefits.
It’s also important to note that the study was conducted in conjunction with Vue Cinemas, a British chain of movie theaters, so it should be taken with a grain of salt.
So while you shouldn’t cancel your gym membership quite yet, it’s nice to know that going to the movies and sitting in a comfy chair for a few hours isn’t the worst thing in the world for you, and it might make you feel better after you load up on popcorn and candy.