Calling all couch potatoes: This is the moment you've been waiting for. It turns out that sitting on your bum isn't necessarily as unhealthy as scientists have led us to believe -- as long as what you're watching scares the (too tight) pants off of you.
A new study commissioned by a video rental company has found that participants burned an average of 113 calories while viewing a 90-minute horror flick. That's the same calorie expenditure as a 30-minute walk! And, some movies (like "The Shining") are so scary that they'll burn up as much as 184 calories in one viewing.
What gives? "As the pulse quickens and blood pumps around the body faster, the body experiences a surge in adrenalin," explains Dr. Richard Mackenzie, a specialist in cell metabolism. "It is this release of fast-acting adrenalin, produced during short bursts of intense stress (or in this case, fear), which is known to lower the appetite, increase the basal metabolic rate, and ultimately burn a higher level of calories." The more gory, gross, or shocking the flick, the more cals your body burns.
So, while we brave-but-lazy girls are Netflixing for the scariest films we can find, we have you scaredy cats covered, too. Here are 5 other ways you can blast calories by just sitting on your fanny.
We don't care if it adjusts or has amazing lumbar support -- lose the office chair, and invest in alternatives. The first option is a stability ball, which requires you to engage your core muscles just to sit, helping burn calories and tone your abs and back, says Michelle Ross, certified fitness trainer at E.W. Training. Just don't sit on the ball to work for more than a total of 60 minutes a day, says Amir Pozderac founder of Executive Fitness Consulting LLC. "Your core muscles will get tired and relax, so your body position will alter and cause your back to bend forward."
Yeah, we know -- you're too stressed out to chuckle. But data from Vanderbilt University Medical Center says that if you can eek out a laugh for 10 to 15 minutes a day, you'll burn up to 40 calories. A real hoot causes your heart rate to rise by 10 to 20 percent, and as it does, your metabolism also increases, which means you'll continue to burn cals once you stop laughing too. No joke!
Tap your feet. Wiggle in your seat. Tap that pen on your desk. According to an Iowa State University study, researchers found that those who frequently fidgeted, stood up, and walked around could burn an additional 300 calories per day, compared to those who remain stationary. In fact, Annette Cain, certified personal trainer and author of "Get In Shape the Lazy Way," says the impulse to fidget may be hardwired, so you might not even need to make a concerted effort to do this. If you do, Cain says to fidget for 3 to 5 minutes at a time, 8 to 10 times a day.
The reason this works? "Movement requires energy, thus calories get burned," she says. "Think about when you shiver from being cold -- your body is trying to generate heat with involuntary muscle contractions that require energy and calories." Since engaging more muscles and using resistance will burn even more calories, try upping the ante the next time you fidget: if you shake your leg, Cain says to come to the balls of your feet to work the calves; if you tap your toes, alternate feet and keep your abs pulled in. Want a fun fidget fact? "The first two fidgets always burn the most calories," she says.
Your body burns more calories trying to stay warm, says Debbie Johnson, author of "Think Yourself Thin." In fact, one form of "brown fat" tissue -- which is turned on when people get cold -- sucks fat out of the rest of the body to fuel itself. Until docs have further studied this phenom for safe clinical use (nobody should lock themselves in a meat locker just to shed some lbs), Johnson likes to keep the temp a little lower in her office than what feels comfortable.
According to Michelle Davenport, nutritionist and research scientist at NYU School of Medicine, some foods may increase metabolism, like spicy foods (cayenne pepper), protein (chicken and cheese), and high fiber foods (broccoli, carrots, and asparagus spears). Our bodies have to work harder to digest protein and high-fiber grub, so eating these foods burns more calories. "They're also better than munching on carb-y, high-sugar foods all day, since those could damage insulin, the hormone in our body that determines whether sugar is stored as fat," she says.