A health check for hockey die-hards: a new study found that the excitement of watching games — in person or on TV — can dramatically increase, and even more than double, heart rate.
A reasearch team from the Montreal Heart Institute monitored heart rates of 20 healthy Montreal Canadiens fans, ages 20 to 63, wearing Holter monitors that track heart activity during games.
Watching on TV boosted heart rate on average by 75% (similar to moderate exercise). Those who watched live saw a typical spike of 110% — that’s equal to vigorous exercise.
But watching New York Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh in action on the ice won’t replace you working out.
Nonetheless, the results “ indicate that viewing a hockey game can likewise be the source of an intense emotional stress, as manifested by marked increases in heart rate,” said researcher Paul Khairy, M.D., Ph.D., Montreal Heart Institute, University of Montreal.
Spectator heart rates peaked during any scoring opportunity and overtime — what Khairy called “high-stakes or high-intensity portions of the game.”
A logical question is whether people with cardiovascular issues should be concerned. “The study raises the potential that the emotional stress-induced response of viewing a hockey game can trigger adverse cardiovascular events on a population level,” said Khairy.
But further research is needed to determine “whether preventive strategies are warranted in susceptible individuals,” Khairy concluded.
The Montreal Heart Institute research grew out of and expanded upon a study conceived and conducted by Khairy’s 13-year-old daughter, Leia, and her Grade 9 classmate Roxana Barin, both of whom play on an intercity soccer team.
Other studies have measured the effects of the excitement of viewing other sports, such as soccer, and even musical theater. Khairy and his fellow investigators believe their study, publishes in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, is the first to focus on hockey.