In a new study, a team of researchers present evidence that using profanity aloud can help a person produce more power – a finding that is particularly helpful with beach season fast approaching and many fitness-related New Year’s resolutions as yet uncorked.
To test the seemingly unrelated connection, the team conducted two experiments. The first involved 29 participants who completed a brief but intense session on an exercise bike. In the second, 52 subjects were asked to complete a handgrip test. The groups performed the tests after both swearing and not swearing.
The team found the participants produced more power when they used profanity before performing each test.
“We know from earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain,” said lead author Richard Stephens, a psychology professor at Keele University in the United Kingdom. “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.”
However, the exact cause of this connection remains unknown, according to the team.
“But 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 said. “So 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 study will be presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference, which takes place from May 3 to May 5.