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Study finds that watching horror movies will help you lose weight

Watching horror movies is one of man's strangest past times. We watch them to feel scared, terrorised and upset, in a similar "pleasure is pain" mentality that justifies why we eat spicy food.

The original Alien gave me legitimate heebie-jeebies, and flying down the hallways with little Danny on his tricycle in The Shining had me whimpering behind a cushion. But when I sat in the dark, shaking with fear and feeling genuinely distressed after having finished the terrifying piece of work that is The VVitch, I ultimately felt proud of myself for having watched it. Weird, right?

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And you know what else? The horror genre challenges the accepted notion that watching movies is a passive activity that contributes to weight gain.

Rather, watching scary films can burn off the same amount of calories as a half-hour walk, according to a study done by the University of Westminster. If you watch a 90-minute horror film, you're likely to burn around 113 calories, which is about as much as a small chocolate bar contains.

Who cares about the other effects horror films have on my health and wellbeing – like frequent hyperventilation and involuntary leaps off the couch during jump-scares you knew you could see coming, as well as longer-term impacts like mild trauma and trouble sleeping for a week – because oh great, it'll help me lose weight.

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In fact, it's the films that frequently have these "jump-scare" moments that are most likely to help burn calories because of the effect they have on increasing the heart rate (not to mention the box of popcorn you accidentally threw in the air on fright). Dr Richard Mackenzie, senior lecturer and specialist in cell metabolism and physiology at the university, said, "As the pulse quickens and blood pumps around the body faster, the body experiences a surge in adrenaline."

"It is this release of fast-acting adrenaline, produced during short bursts of intense stress (or in this case, brought on by fear), which is known to lower the appetite, increase the basal metabolic rate and ultimately burn a higher level of calories."

The bad news is that losing these 113 calories won't mean anything at all if you're still gorging yourself on mountains of candy and buttery popcorn during your viewing session. The study just calculated how much you'd lose if you were doing nothing but watching the film.

However, it was proven that there is a correlation between how scary the film was and how many calories it burned. The scariest film the researchers tested was Kubrick's The Shining, ranking number one in burning calories with 184.

Jaws came in second on the list, with around 161 calories lost, followed by 158 when watching The Exorcist. The rest of the list of classic horror films ranks the scare factor/calories burned as Alien, Saw, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and [Rec].

They didn't test any more recent horror films like box-office hit It or the brilliant Get Out, but you'd guess that these frightening flicks would get your pulse racing all the same. In any case, it's one more reason to search for horror on Netflix AND to excuse ourselves for accidentally finishing the block of chocolate. Happy watching.