Researchers from Keele University, U.K. revealed through two experiments that swearing during physical activity could actually make you stronger. Both experiments found that uttering profanities increased physical performance by almost 8%.
Boosting metabolism and releasing endorphins through exercise usually results in what is commonly referred to as a “runner’s high,” or a feeling of euphoria. But metabolic muscle activity, typically 25% of total body expenditure, increases with performance during exercise when profanity is involved.
Many psychologists believe higher physical performance after the use of profanity is a result of emotional release, but Richard Stephens, who led the research team from Keele University, believes it’s a more physical phenomenon.
“We did a study a number of years ago looking at why people swear when they hurt themselves and we found out it helps people cope with pain — they can cope with the pain for longer,” he told Newsweek.
In order to build on the previous research, participants were asked to perform two exercises. The first, which consisted of 29 subjects, required them to repeat a profanity of their choice or a neutral word while performing physical activity. In this case, it was biking. During this experiment, researchers found that participants were stronger when repeating the profanity over the neutral word.
The second exercise was a simple hand grip and involved 52 participants. According to Stephens, this exercise measured the same thing: performance.
“It isn’t as extreme. In the grip task they produced about eight percent stronger grip in swearing versus non-swearing,” he explained.
But the results weren’t exactly what Stephens was hoping for. Rather than triggering the fight or flight response, as he previously thought profanity would, there seemed to be another mechanism at play.
“We don’t really know [what swearing does]. It could be to do with pain tolerance. If you look at pain literature there are many different strategies people can employ to reduce pain perception. Even distracting somebody can reduce pain,” he said.
And still there are others who believe more psychological factors could be the reason behind enhances performance after swearing. The most recent study is currently being peer-reviewed, but researchers are planning to return to this data in the future and run more tests to determine exactly what’s happening.
But until then, there’s still solid proof that for whatever reason, profanity boosts physical performance. If nothing else, it’s certainly something to consider for the future of fitness.