11/11/2013 08:50 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:56 GMT

Unearthing How Horror Affects the Heart

As the nights draw in and a post work run becomes even less appealing, it got us wondering about the alternative ways to get our pulses racing? We've all heard the expression my "heart skipped a beat", but how does horror actually affect our heart rates?

Whether you love them or hate them, there's no denying horror films have had a hair-raising effect on audiences over the years. So we conducted an experiment into the physiological effect of films, particularly how horror impacts our heart rates. We ran a poll of the top 100 scariest films of all time and, as the results rolled in we took the top three scariest movies and hosted a series of fright night screenings. Audiences at these screenings were hooked up to heart rate monitors to unearth just how horror affects the heart.

The most chilling scenes of all time

Over 10,000 people voted and the three scariest films were perceived to be The Exorcist, followed by A Nightmare on Elm Street and, claiming the top spot, The Shining. But how did these classics affect our hearts? Interestingly, when we looked at the results overall we found watching a horror movie increases your heart rate by an average of 25.3%, with the average heart rate rising to 100bpm during the most disturbing scenes. Based on the age range of our group the target heart rate for exercise was between 97- 165 beats per minute, so from a pulse perspective watching horror actually equated to pushing heart rates into the light exercise zone.

The scariest scenes revealed

While The Shining was perceived to the most horrifying film, A Nightmare on Elm Street actually proved to have the greatest physical effect overall, upping audience member's heart rates by 26.8% on average. However when it came to the scariest scenes, the iconic "Here's Johnny" scene in The Shining , where Jack Nicholson hacks through a bathroom door with an axe, proved to be the most terrifying scene of all time, upping pulses by 28.21%. Several scenes from A Nightmare on Elm Street were close behind, including the gruesome murder scenes of Jonny Depp's character, Glen Lantz (upping pulses by 26.24%) and Tina Gray (26.20%).


So could a Krueger marathon keep me fit?

When it comes to a healthy heart there is clearly no substitute for a regular cardio work out! However, it was interesting to see that horror really does get our pulses racing, so as the nights draw in, if you're looking to substitute the odd run with a more sedentary thrill, you could check out one of the top ten scariest films nominated in our poll:

1. The Shining (1980)

2. The Exorcist (1973)

3. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

4. Ring (aka Ringu) (1998)

5. Alien (1979)

6. The Silence of the Lambs (1990)

7. Poltergeist (1982)

8. Insidious (2010)

9. Halloween (1978)

10. Saw (2004)

You can check out the top 100 here -