Study finds theatregoing is similar to exercise

News | 29 Sep 2017

Study finds theatregoing is similar to exercise

A new study claims that attending theatre can have the same effect on the body as 30 minutes of exercise.

Scientists from University College London and the University of Lancaster monitored 12 volunteers attending a performance of Dreamgirls. They used electronic wrist bands to study their heart rate and brain activity.

They discovered that while watching the show, the volunteers' hearts beat at an "elevated range" for 28 minutes. The range was between 50-70% of their maximum heart rate, which the British Heart Foundation says is the optimal heart rate for cardio fitness exercise.

Dr Joseph Devlin, head of Experimental Psychology at UCL, said: "By the end of the first act, heart rates nearly doubled from their resting state at the beginning, while in the second act, it tripled. You see comparable changes in heart rate in professional tennis players during burst of highly intense exertion such as long and fast rallies."

'The fact there's some benefit to going to the theatre is fabulous'

But audience members themeselves don't seem to notice the effects. A survey by ticket agent Encore, who funded the research, found that only 15% of people noticed a difference in their breathing rate while watching a show.

The study proves what many of us have long suspected, that theatregoing is good for you. Though Dr Devlin cautioned against dropping your exercise regime entirely. "I wouldn’t suggest anybody give up their gym membership," he said "but the fact that there's some benefit to also going to the theatre is fabulous." 

Image: A scene from Dreamgirls, © Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Back to news