Saturday 17 March 2018

What a buzz: Scientists prove driving a fast car makes your heart beat quicker than a parachute jump, horror movie or proposing

Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

DRIVING a powerful car can give your system a bigger buzz than a parachute jump, rollercoaster ride or watching a horror movie such as The Shining.

Tests show your heartbeat can increase nearly two-fold when you get behind the wheel of a fast car.

The tests were conducted by scientists from the University of Portsmouth at the Goodwood Motor Circuit.

They worked with drivers of MINI’s new John Cooper Works hatch (which I recently reviewed here – with the odd heart-in-the-mouth moment it must be said).

Those driving were put through a series of physical, psychological and physiological tests to measure the effect the car had on them.

Included was stunt driver Niki Faulkner, of ‘Rush’ and ‘Mission Impossible 5’ fame.

Some drivers’ self-recorded anxiety levels surged by 370pc from rest and average heart rate increased 100pc to 181 beats per minute. The experts say that is more than you’ll get watching The Shining horror film or jumping out of a plane (170 beats per minute).

Read more: Flying machine from MINI but price brings you down to earth

They went so far as to claim that driving the new performance hatch could spark a bigger response than proposing to your girlfriend or boyfriend. Or even running a marathon.

All that adrenalin has its upsides, according to Dr Chris Wagstaff. It sharpened up those behind the wheel: drivers’ reaction times improved by an average of 6pc – much the same effect as caffeine.

Dr Wagstaff explains: “In situations of fear and excitement, the body reacts according to a combination of our thoughts and survival instinct – reactions are faster, our heart rate increases.

“This is part of the evolutionary fight or flight response humans developed many hundreds of years ago. However, in the absence of natural predators to trigger such responses, humans occasionally seek out risks or thrills. Being in a MINI delivered enough exhilaration to activate this response.”

The MINI pumps 231bhp, has a top speed of 255kmh and reaches 100kmh in 6.3 seconds. Its price in Ireland starts at €33,993.

Here’s what happened:

* The average heart rate increased by 100pc when driving (80pc as a passenger).

* The maximum heart rate for a driver was 181 beats per minute. The average was 153.

* The maximum heart rate as a passenger was 153 beats per minute.

* Going from rest to being a passenger increased anxiety by 288pc according to self-reported data.

* Going from rest to driving pushed that further – up by 370pc.

* Average reaction time improved by 6pc.

* Maximum heart rate of a rider during a rollercoaster ride was 155 beats per minute

* The average beats per minute of someone jumping out of a plane was 170 beats per minute

* The maximum heart rate of someone proposing to their girlfriend was 130 beats per minute

Online Editors

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Also in Life