Can swearing aloud really make you stronger?

Swearing in the gym boosts the power of both men and women, according to research presented at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Brighton.

Swearing in the gym boosts the power of both men and women, according to research presented at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Brighton.

0
Have your say

Turning the air blue makes you stronger, suggests a new study.

Swearing in the gym boosts the power of both men and women, according to the research.

The study of more than eighty people found cursing during exercises produced much better results than than when did not utter any profanities.

The findings, presented at the British Psychological Society's annual conference in Brighton, adds to growing evidence that swearing - like Catherine Tate's cussing Nan character or TV chef Gordon Ramsey - is good for you.

It follows research by the same team that found being foul mouthed really does help relieve pain.

Now experiments have shown it can also help people go that extra mile when they are working out.

In the first 29 students, 18 of whom were female, completed a test of anaerobic power - a short, intense period on an exercise bike.

When they chose their favourite swear word to help them through their power surged by 24 Watts, on average.

In the second trial 52 students did an isometric handgrip test - popular with golfers - involving grasping and releasing an object

Likewise, the results showed when they swore their grip was 2.1 kg stronger.

Dr Richard Stephens, of Keele University, North Staffordshire, said: "We know from our earlier research swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain.

"A possible reason for this is it stimulates the body's sympathetic nervous system -- that is 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.

"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.

"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."

He added: "Swearing aloud increases pain tolerance.

"The hypothesis that this response may be owed to an increase in sympathetic drive raises the intriguing question as to whether swearing results in an improvement in strength and power.

"Greater maximum performance was observed in the swearing conditions compared with the non-swearing conditions for power and hand grip strength

"However, swearing did not affect cardiovascular or autonomic function assessed via heart rate, heart rate variability, blood pressure and skin conductance."

He concluded: "Two experiments show that swearing can increase physical performance depending upon muscular strength

"Increased strength was in the absence of any changes in autonomic activity, suggesting a mechanism other than the fight or flight response."

Eight years ago Dr Stephens found volunteers who cursed at will could endure pain nearly 50 per cent longer than civil tongued peers.

They were able to keep their hand in a freezing tub of water for nearly two minutes when swearing compared with only one minute and 15 seconds for those who refrained from using expletives.

Dr Stephens came up with the idea for the study after swearing when he accidentally hit his thumb with a hammer as he built a garden shed.

They say the accelerated heart rates may indicate an increase in aggression, in a classic fight-or-flight response of downplaying a weakness or threat in order to deal with it.

Dr Stephens believes it may also explain why the centuries old practice of cursing developed and still persists today.

IMAGE DOWNLOAD