A new study claims that swearing can make you stronger. The research, conducted by scientists from Keele University, found that in certain situations swearing out loud may be advantageous, as it can make a person gain more strength.
The study, which was presented at this year’s annual conference of The British Psychological Society, said that volunteers involved in the survey were able to produce more power and also had a stronger handgrip when they swore out loud.
Swearing increased power in participants of the study
The researchers noted that swearing did not haven an effect on the volunteer’s heart rate, which suggests another reason for the sudden increase in strength.
“So quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered,” said study author Dr. Richard Stephens according to EurekAlert. “We have yet to understand the power of swearing fully.”
In the research, Stephens and his team from Keele University and Long Island University Brooklyn recruited 29 volunteers who averaged 21 years of age to complete a test of anaerobic power. Anaerobic power refers to the physical effort during a short period where an individual uses his or her whole strength.
For the study, the anaerobic exercise consisted of a short, intense period on an exercise bicycle, and the researchers asked volunteers to do the bike exercise both after swearing and after not swearing to measure differences in strength. The volunteers were asked to peddle as furiously as possible for 30 seconds on the bike.
In another anaerobic experiment, 52 volunteers aged around 19 years old were asked to do an isometric handgrip tests, which is a physiological test conducted to increase arterial pressure. Results from the experiments showed that swearing resulted in more strength in both experiments. In the first experiment, people who used swear words performed slightly better on the task, as they increased their power by 24 watts on average. In the second experiment, swearing increased grip strength on participants by 4.63 pounds (2.1 kg).
Volunteers were asked to choose a swearword to repeat in their experiments, based on a term they might say if they banged their head. For the neutral word, they were asked to pick a word they might use to refer a table, like “wooden” or “brown.” Stephens explained that volunteers were asked to repeat the word throughout each test and that they were told not to shout or scream the word, but to repeat it in an even tone.
Previous research found that swearing also reduced pain
The findings did not come as a surprise to the team. According to The Guardian, Stephens recalled a friend of his, Mark Foulkes, who in 2013 participated in a tandem bike ride from Reading to Barcelona to raise money for a charity, and according to the scientist, swearing was a prominent feature of them powering up the Pyrenees.
Increased strength is not the only benefit of swearing, as Stephens had previously conducted research that found that swearing helps to reduce pain. Such study, published in 2009, noted that swearing triggered higher aggression and an immediate response, according to the researchers. The triggering led to higher adrenaline and increased heart rate, both of which help to reduce or numb pain.
In the 2009 study, the researchers investigated whether swearing affected cold-pressor pain tolerance, which is the ability to endure immersing the hand in icy water, as well as pain perception and heart rate. The participants were also asked to repeat a swear word versus a neutral word, and the team concluded that swearing increased pain tolerance, increased heart rate and decreased perceived pain compared with not swearing.
The researchers did not conclude why some words have more physical power than others, but they suggested that it has to do with the high level of emotion linked to swearing words. These emotional links have a stronger physical reaction than other words.
“We know from our earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain,” said Stephens, according to EurekAlert. “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.”
Stephens added that if that, in fact, were the reason, then they would expect swearing to make people stronger too, and that was exactly what they found in their new study. However, he noted that when they measured heart rate and other things that they expected to see affected if the sympathetic nervous system was responsible for the increase in strength, they found no significant changes.
According to Stephens, the study is not telling people something they don’t already know, but they were verifying the phenomenon in a systematic and objective way. He believes that people instinctively reach for swear words when they hurt themselves and also when they are looking for an extra boost in performance.
Source: Medical Daily