Working Out Is Hard AF — but Swearing Can Make You Stronger

May 5, 2017 at 10:04 a.m. ET
Image: Justin Tafoya/Getty Images

The next time someone tells you to watch your mouth at the gym, now you can tell them with confidence to mind their own damn business Swearing actually improves your physical performance.

As someone who loves swearing but hates exercise, it’s rare that I’m in a situation of physical exertion where an F-bomb (or seven) doesn’t slip out, but at least now I can say that it’s only making me a better athlete.

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And yes, there’s research to back this up. In two separate studies, scientists found that lacing your workout routine with profanity increased physical performance by up to 8 percent and made participants more tolerant of the pain.

In previous research, Richard Stephens from Keele University in the U.K. found that swearing helps people cope with pain, raising heart rates as part of a fight or flight response, he told Newsweek.

After this, Stephens and his colleagues decided to see if, in addition to triggering a fight or flight response, cursing could also increase physical performance. To test this, they had 29 people bicycle for a short but intense period and repeat either a swear word or neutral word of their choosing. Turns out, the potty-mouthed cyclists were stronger than their polite counterparts.

So why does swearing make us better physical performers?

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Stephens told Newsweek it has to do with what psychologists call “general inhibition” — basically, “when you swear, you just don’t care as much. You’re just not as self-conscious. It could be that. That would be interesting because that would suggest swearing might help beyond physical tasks.”

The study is currently under peer review, and Stephens and his team plan to revisit a previous study on swearing and pain to gather more data.

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Does this mean we have a scientifically backed reason to use words otherwise shunned by polite society? Abso-fuckin'-lutely.

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