For those of you who use foul language more often than you’d like, you can now reference a new study to justify your behavior! Psychologists from the University of Keele suggest that swearing can actually boost muscle and build strength and stamina.
The study required people to perform specific physical exercises, with one group using an occasional swear word to get them through the intense parts of the workout.
In both intense biking exercises and grip strength exercises, the psychologists found that swearing made a considerable difference in performance.
“We know from our earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain,” said Dr. Richard Stephens. “A possible reason for this is that it stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system – that’s the system that makes your heart pound when you are in danger. If that is the reason, we would expect swearing to make people stronger, too, and that is just what we found in these experiments,” he added. “Quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered. We have yet to understand the power of swearing fully.”
The results of the study were very specific. During one exercise, 29 volunteers, all in the same age group, were asked to pedal as fast as they could while using a swear word or a neutral word. For those that used swear words, peak power was increased by an average of 24 watts.
The second exercise involved 52 participants, close in age, and a grip strength test. Grip strength was increased by 2.1 kilograms for those that cursed instead of using neutral words.
“It doesn’t seem to be related to autonomic (fight or flight) arousal,” said Stephens, explaining that heart rate was not affected by using a swear word. “We have some suggestions about what might be behind this effect which will need further research. It could be that it involves the pain relief effect we registered before. Pain perception and pain relief are quite complex things. Swear words have a distracting effect. If you’re asked to squeeze a hand gripper as hard as you can, there’s a certain amount of discomfort, and it could be that this is reduced by being distracted,” he explained.
“Swearing seems to be a form of emotional language. Perhaps it’s the emotional effect of the words that leads to the distraction, but this is just speculation at the moment.”
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