Can dropping F-bombs make you stronger in the gym?
A research study swears it does. The study was recently presented at the annual gathering of the British Psychological Society in Brighton. In a series of experiments 29 young adults took short spins on exercise bikes and another 52 people squeezed grip-testers as hard as they could.
According to the study’s lead author, Richard Stephens, participants spun faster and squeezed harder when they repeated their favourite profanity as opposed to a neutral word.
It was found when participants cursed their way through the half-minute bike challenge their peak power rose by 24 watts on average. In the 10-second grip task, swearers improved their strength by the equivalent of 2.1kg.
People were asked to choose a particular swear word to repeat based on a term they might utter if they banged their head. For a neutral word, they were asked to pick a word they might use to describe a table such as “wooden” or “brown”.
The study builds on previous research conducted by Stephens, a psychologist at Keele University, which found evidence that expletives increased people’s tolerance to pain.
“We’re not telling people something they don’t already know, but we’re verifying that in a systematic and objective way. I think people instinctively reach for swear words when they hurt themselves and when they’re looking for an extra boost in performance,” said Stephens.
“Swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain. 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.”