Sometimes letting out a burst of profanity when you are particularly stressed (and preferably alone) can be just the thing to help you calm down and decompress. Other times swearing up a blue streak can happen during charged situations when you might feel threatened or even preclude more violent acts like fighting.
A new study presented at a recent meeting of the British Psychological Society found that when 29 people were asked to complete a short, powerful burst of pedaling on a stationary bike before and after swearing—and when 52 subjects squeezed a handgrip as hard as possible, also before and after cussing—they both produced more pedaling power and had a stronger grip after letting loose with the cuss words.
Researchers thought that, just like swearing may reduce the perception of pain by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system, letting out some bad words before exercise would activate the same pathways.
“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,” said study co-author Richard Stephens, Ph.D., research leader of the Psychobiology Research Laboratory at Keele University in the U.K. “So 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.”
Unfortunately, unless you have a home gym, it’s gonna be hard to test this one out for yourself. We’ve got a bunch of workouts you can do at home though, with minimal equipment required so think up your best swear words and get to sweating. Or you could just ride your bike on city streets…you’ll soon be cussing careless drivers out left and right.