Athletes and wannabe athletes take note: One way to push through the last draining moments of a workout is to let out a good, hearty “Fuck!” In a new study, psychologists discovered that swearing increases strength performance during physical exercises. This research suggests that swearing not only helps people tolerate pain but also makes them stronger as well.
“We’re not telling people something they don’t already know, but we’re verifying that in a systematic and in an objective way,” lead author and psychologist Richard Stephens, Ph.D., explained to the Guardian. “I think people instinctively reach for swear words when they hurt themselves and when they’re looking for an extra boost in performance.”
Stephens and his team presented these results on Thursday at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society. They concluded that swearing has a positive effect on strength after conducting two exercise experiments. In the first, 29 study participants were observed while they briefly but intensely rode an exercise bike. They rode the bike twice — once after swearing and once after not swearing. In the second study, a different group of 52 participants were evaluated while they either let out curse words or did not, and then they completed an isometric handgrip test. When the participants cursed, they were told to do so in an even tone — there weren’t any fiery Ari Gold outbursts going on.
Across both studies, participants who cursed experienced a greater sense of physical power and strength during their workout compared to those who did not curse. Those who cursed before biking increased their “peak power” by 24 watts, and those who cursed before the grip task boosted their strength by 2.1 kilograms. However, when their heart rates and skin conductance were measured, they researchers couldn’t identify any significant physiological changes that emerged from cursing. This means that swearing causes these effects, but researchers still aren’t sure why.
“When we measured heart rate and some other things you would expect to be affected if the sympathetic nervous system was responsible for this increase in strength, we did not find significant changes,” Stephens explained in a statement. “So 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.”
Researchers do know from previous studies that cursing helps people build intimate bonds faster and aids in the processing of overwhelming emotions. So, even if scientists don’t quite get why cursing helps humans out, we probably shouldn’t stop anytime soon. Fuck yeah!