Does Getting Scared Make You Burn More Calories?

Friends watching a scary movie

To some, October is synonymous with quaint pumpkin patches and pumpkin-spiced treats. To others, it’s about embracing all things scary (think spooky stories, haunted hayrides, and terrifying horror films). And while an interest in getting spooked may seem like it’s just all in good Halloween fun, the frights might also have a certain health benefit: they could be boosting your calorie burn. (Score!)

To a certain extent, some studies have found that getting spooked might have something to do with boosting your calorie burn. This is basically because getting scared triggers a stressful fight or flight response in your body, which leads to a release of adrenaline and cortisol. Your body then starts to use up the energy it has stored as your heart rate rises, your blood flow increases, and the release of glucose into your blood stream goes up. As a whole, that process could lead to a boost in the amount of calories your body burns after a serious scare, which sounds like pretty good news for horror film fans and dedicated scare seekers.

But there’s a catch: if you do burn extra calories from getting scared, those calories aren’t exactly on par with the extra calories that you burn from, say, going for a run. In fact, they’re not even close.

“In theory, and increase in heart rate, means an increase in blood flow, which requires greater body processes, but it does not measure calories burned on anything more than a theoretical level.” says Dr. William E Newsome, M.D., the former medical director of US HealthWorks and the co-founder of Florida-based weight loss clinic Solutions Weight Loss. “And if you twitch, fidget, jump, or sweat during horror films, you may burn a small amount of calories, but probably not enough to burn off the buttery popcorn you are munching on,”

So yes, a screening of The Shining might give you a little calorie burn boost, but if you get carried away with the Twix because you think your horror movie marathon will make up for the indulgence, that might be a whole scary story of its own.

About Tamara Rahoumi

Tamara Rahoumi is a writer on The Path Editorial Team. She is a graduate of Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in magazine journalism at NYU. Her passion for wellness always has her researching the latest fitness trends, experimenting with recipes from superfood cookbooks, and working towards an overall healthier and happier lifestyle. In addition to reading her articles on The Path, you can follow her adventures on her lifestyle blog, The Curly Nomad.