The Ups and Downs of the Roller Coaster Attractions

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Chances are, you’ve seen a roller coaster before. If you haven’t just seen it and actually ridden on it, it could be that you’re one of the lucky ones without some sort of heart condition to hold you back. Or you could be. In this article, the stress relieving effects of roller coasters and other thrill rides are going to be looked at, as well as the astounding and possibly really dangerous fact that some people with heart conditions still do come over for the ride of a lifetime–even though it’s an ever-present risk to their heart health.

The Ups: Facing Fears

For many amusement park visitors, the roller coaster is the star of the show. In most parks, it sits high and mighty over every other ride, carrying its passengers at a speed of 80 to 100 mph on average. It’s the simulated fear that people find thrilling about these rides. There is the ever-present risk of falling to one’s death, of course, or getting stuck as the roller coaster reaches the infamous loops and leaves its passengers stranded in mid-air.

These are still real dangers and can be a source of anxiety for some roller coaster riders, but as far as Pete Trabucco is concerned, the real effect that roller coasters dealt with him was actually not amping up his anxiety over them, but curing it instead. According to a report by news website Forbes, Trabucco used to really hate roller coasters, until he took a shot and threw in the proverbial towel of his fear and boarded one. Since then, he’s loved every aspect about roller coasters so much–its simulated danger, its ability to mess with a body’s internal balancing system, and well, its ability to make everyone scream–that he actually made a book entitled “America’s Top Roller Coasters and Amusement Park” which he managed to do after he shared he’s actually ridden 1,000 around the world.

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Most researchers say that riding roller coasters may truly help scare the stress away because it gets a physical outlet, either through screaming it out or just letting one’s body feel good about the powerlessness that these rides simulate. According to a corresponding report by the Standard-Examiner, though, there is not much quantitative or in-depth research concerning the healthy effects of roller coasters. Although the rather bizarre feeling of fear and pleasure that people experience on one has only made them come back for more. Every year, some 297 million people visit amusement parks, and most of the rides they go on are roller coasters. Aside from the roller coaster ride, the time it takes for people to get to one place to another also means they’re putting in some small exercise into their body as Trabucco says that most people would be walking 5 to 10 miles in one day in an amusement park.

The added exercise is a bonus, for sure, but it does not replace actually exercising. According to director of Weber State University’s Stress Relief Center, Michael Olpin, walking the average 140 acres of land at an amusement park is not equivalent to exercise. Although it’s still good for the heart since one’s body is in motion, it should not be considered an alternative to truly putting work in a workout. To count as exercise, physical activity has to reach the 15- to 20-minute mark of elevated heart rate. If not for exercise, a visit to the theme park is at least a welcome change for our stressed minds and bodies. “You’re smiling and you’re laughing and you’re having great experiences, it bumps up your immune system,” he says. “It’s therapy through amusement parks, I guess.”

The Downs: Neglected Risks

For all the unexplored benefits linked to roller coasters, it’s not surprising that most articles that circulate on the internet about its effects lean more on the risky parts of it. One search on a browser will give anyone a barrage of statistics regarding death and injuries that might come from riding roller coasters. The articles wouldn’t be completely wrong. And although the odds of dying horribly on a roller coaster is 1 to 24 million, some people greatly either ignore the potential hazardous effect it has on one’s well-being because the risks are either neglected because, well, roller coasters are fun, or they are downplayed. In a report by science-based website Science Daily, research published by Yale students found that people who have heart conditions actually still like going on the rides. From a respondent pool of 633 people, it was found that 331 respondents were still adamant at continuing thrill-seeking activities even if they had already been fitted with implantable defibrillators and exhibited symptoms daily.

Some 190 people do say they only experience milder symptoms like palpitations, nausea, or chest pain, while a smaller amount of people, just nine of them, shared that they had to be shocked through the heart after a thrill-seeking activity within the 60 minutes after the ride. The report adds: “In four of those cases, the events occurred during roller coaster riding.”

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