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Joe Aaron Reid and the cast in Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre (Photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)

Joe Aaron Reid and the cast in Dreamgirls at the Savoy Theatre (Photo: Brinkhoff/Mögenburg)

New study suggests theatre stimulates cardiovascular system

First Published 29 September 2017, Last Updated 29 September 2017

It’s a result to make every regular theatregoer rejoice: watching a live theatre performance can stimulate your cardiovascular system like healthy cardio exercise, a new study suggests.

The conclusion is based on the results of research conducted by University College London and the University of Lancaster in association with Encore Tickets at a performance of Dreamgirls, where the heartrates of audience members spent an average of 28 minutes beating at an elevated range between 50% – 70% of their maximum heart rate.

The British Heart Foundation identify this level of heartrate as the optimal heart rate to stimulate cardio fitness and stamina, suggesting that, although they were seated for the performance, audience members spent an average of 28 minutes engaged in healthy cardio exercise.

The researchers monitored the heart rates, brain activity, and other physiological signals of 12 individuals at the performance.

Dr Joseph Devlin, Head of Experimental Psychology at University College London, says: “This demonstration paints quite a clear picture that attending a live performance has an impact on cardiovascular activity.”

The study showed that two of the most interesting peaks in heartrate activity come just before the start of the interval, and at the end of the show. The soar from a lower heart rate suggesting captivated concentration, to a higher peak of arousal, reflects the surge of deep emotion and energy seen on stage.

Dr Devlin added: “Within the results of the heart rate data from the theatre audience, there was a large dynamic range consistent with the fact that being in a live audience increases the emotional intensity of the experience.”

“The results indicate that the highs and lows of the theatre performance allow for a range of emotions that can stimulate the heart and induce heartrate activity that is parallel to an exerting cardio work out.”

Dreamgirls, the sensational Tony and Olivier Award-winning musical, is currently booking at the Savoy Theatre, London, until 10 February 2018.

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