In her column this month, our health and wellness columnist Dr Andrea Lim illustrates what happens to your brain and body when watching football.

Having drawn Panama in a sweepstake, I spent 90 excruciating minutes watching my team concede 3 goals and be given 5 yellow cards in its first World Cup match.

And although I didn’t have my heart rate monitor on, in this one and a half hour, my heart rate would have been 75% higher than what it normally is; if I had been watching it live in Russia, it would have been 110% it’s usual rate.

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Researchers report this to be comparative to moderate and vigorous exercise respectively, that means I can cancel a gym session for every game watched…or doesn’t it?

Watching an exciting match also raises our breathing rate and increases the blood flow to our skin—the same responses that are produced by our contracting muscles when we exercise, are triggered in the brain when we watch sport. If it sounds almost too good to be true, it probably is.

A Canadian study found that although our heart rates and blood pressure shoot up, there is no cardiovascular health benefit that working out brings. Apart from the occasional fist pump or jumping up from the sofa, there is also no work being done by our muscles.

In fact on the contrary, a study of German fans during the 2006 World Cup showed that the risk of having a stroke or heart attack was double while watching their national team play a stressful match. Higher adrenaline levels and also elevated emotional stress are thought to be the trigger.

What happened in the subsequent Panama matches, you may ask. Your guess is as good as mine.

So even if being a spectator isn’t purely a passive activity, it may even be that we should get fit to watch sport. Looks like we should get that workout in.

Further reading: 5 healthy habits of top athletes to inspire you