According to a new study, swearing can make you a bit stronger. So, if you need that extra push to complete a cycle ride or gym workout, then you might want to let out an expletive or two.
Researcher have found that the participants in the study, using an exercise bike or performing a hand grip test produced more power when they repeated a swear word aloud compared with a neutral word.
A team from Keele University in the UK hasn’t come up with a hypothesis for why this might be the case yet, but it’s definitely something to bear in mind the next time you’re struggling to get through the home straight – as long as there are no young children around…
Psychologist Richard Stephens, who was one of the researchers, told Ian Sample at The Guardian: “In the short period of time we looked at there are benefits from swearing.”
During the study two experiments were carried out. In the first, 29 volunteers tested their anaerobic power during short, intense bursts on an exercise bike.
Participants had to pick two words: one swear word they might use when accidentally hitting their head, and one neutral word they might use to describe a table (like “wooden” or “brown”).
They were completing one bike run using the swear words repeated in an even tone, and one with the neutral words. The peak power produced by the cyclists rose by 24 watts on average when foul language was used.
After that, 52 different volunteers were asked to run through an isometric hand test. Again with their choice of curse word, and then their choice of neutral word.
When swearing, people’s strength was boosted by the equivalent of 2.1 kilograms (4.6 pounds) on average, the researchers said.
Stephens says: “Quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered.”
We can probably rule out the swearing causing a fight-or-flight response, though – heart rates measured during the tests showed no significant changes whether people were swearing or not swearing.
It’s important to know that the study used a relatively small sample size, and has yet to be peer-reviewed journal, so these findings are intriguing rather than conclusive for the time being.
But the research does tie in with an earlier study led by Stephens and his colleagues, in which was found that throwing out expletives increases a person’s pain threshold.
The researchers admit that we have yet to fully understand the reactions that swearing kicks off in the body, but more and more, scientists are looking into it.
However, a little boost of strength isn’t the only thing swearing has going for it –another study that was published earlier this year found that people who cursed more often were also more likely to be honest, based on tests run on 276 participants.
“Swearing is often inappropriate, but it can also be evidence that someone is telling you their honest opinion,” said one of the researchers, David Stillwell from the University of Cambridge in the UK.
According to a separate study from Marist College in 2015, not only do foul-mouthed people appear to more honest, they might also be more articulate. It found that those who knew more swear words also had a larger vocabulary overall than those who didn’t.
Stronger, more honest, more articulate… it seems the benefits of being a regular swearer are adding up, even if all your friends think you’re something of a potty mouth.
The next thing to be done is a more scientific take on exactly what brain functions are triggered by swearing, and the processes at work in the body – in that regard it’s still early days.
But this latest study might only be confirming something we already instinctively knew to be true.
“We’re not telling people something they don’t already know, but we’re verifying that in a systematic and objective way,”– said Sthephens 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.”