Swearing While Exercising May Make You Stronger



Have you ever been at the gym, quietly going about your workout, only to shudder at the sound of someone yelling loudly while benching a bunch of pounds? Of course you have. Has that person lifting also dropped a few F-bombs along the way? Perhaps.

Interestingly, such vocal exercisers could be onto something. Based on research conducted by Dr. Richard Stephens and Dr. David K. Spierer of the Division of Athletic Training, Health and Exercise Science at Long Island University Brooklyn, swearing while working out may be beneficial.

To test this theory out, Dr. Stephens and Dr. Spierer conducted a pair of fitness-related experiments.

The first experiment saw 29 people participate in anaerobic power (a brief, yet intense ride on an exercise bike) tests. The second one, meanwhile, had 52 people complete isometric handgrip tests. In both instances, these individuals would take these tests when swearing and not swearing.

Interestingly, results showed that those who swore displayed more strength in the anaerobic power test. For the second experiment, dropping expletives led to a stronger handgrip.

“We know from our earlier research that 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,” explained Dr. Stephens.

“If that is the reason, we would expect swearing to make people stronger too – and that is just what we found in these experiments,” he continued. “But 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. So quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered. We have yet to understand the power of swearing fully.”


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-Adam Grant