Sometimes you’ve just got to scream the f-word.
Not only can you not help yourself on occasion, but it can feel really good to shout expletives into the void.
Scientific research has now found that there might be some biological truth behind the benefits we feel when effing and blinding.
New research presented by Richard Stevens, a senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University, at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference on May 5 demonstrated that swearing aloud could actually make us stronger.
There were two experiments. In the first, 29 subjects completed a test of their anaerobic power which was a short, intense period on an exercise bike. They were told to either swear their way through it or refrain.
Those who were foul-mouthed saw their power rise by 24 watts on average.
In the second test, 52 participants performed a handgrip test, which consisted of gripping as hard as they could for 10 seconds, again either while swearing or not swearing. The researchers found that the swearers managed to boost their strength by the equivalent of over two kilograms.
Stevens’ previous research on the association between pain and swearing, and whether cursing out loud really helps relieve pain slightly, found that people could withstand plunging their hands into ice-cold water for longer if they repeatedly swore, compared to if they said a neutral word.
“A possible reason for this is that it stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system — that’s the system that makes you heart pound when you are in danger,” Stevens said in a statement. “If that is the reason, we would expect swearing to make people stronger, too — and that’s just what we found in these experiments.”
However, he notes that there is still a lot more to be understood about how cursing affects our bodies.
“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,” he said. “So quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered.”
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