Cursing And Exercise
Having problems at the gym? Can’t get yourself motivated? Lacking energy or pain tolerance? Well, it looks like cursing might be the fix you were always looking for.
In a joint effort between Keele University and Long Island University, researchers conducted a study around exercising and cursing. The results found that people who cursed while using stationary bikes for the high-intensity Wingate Anaerobic Power Test showed signs of increased muscular performance.
As the research team wrote in their study report:
“A boost to muscular performance is in line with our predictions and with earlier research indicating that swearing can trigger sympathetic activation, sometimes described as the fight-or-flight response. A final possibility is that there is something particular to the sound and articulation of swearing that is less common in non-swear words, for example plosiveness (i.e. a speech sound produced by complete closure of the oral passage and subsequent release accompanied by a burst of air). While many non-swear words are also plosive, a systematic assessment of plosiveness would make for interesting further research.”
It’s been known for a while that cursing, as well as loud grunting and groaning, help with athletic activities. Why else do tennis players grunt so loudly after every serve and hit?
Cursing and Pain Tolerance
The study found that pain tolerance increased with cursing because it enacted the fight-or-flight response in their study group. A second experiment expressed this result when researchers had participants curse while trying to withstand the cold of plunging their hands in icy water.
“Swearing increased pain tolerance, increased heart rate and decreased perceived pain compared with not swearing,” say authors Richard Stephens, John Atkins and Andrew Kingston. “However, swearing did not increase pain tolerance in males with a tendency to catastrophise. The observed pain-lessening (hypoalgesic) effect may occur because swearing induces a fight-or-flight response and nullifies the link between fear of pain and pain perception.”
If this experiment of hands in icy water sounds familiar, it’s because it’s been done before. And that time, it was in a much more popular medium. TV.
As shown in the video above, the mid-2000s tv show titled MythBusters once tried to understand the connection between cursing and pain tolerance. In order to tackle that topic, the show’s scientists and personalities tested out several experiments. One such experiment was plunging their hands in icy cold water. Even at that time, the results found that there was a slight increase in pain tolerance if someone cursed. Of course, that difference wasn’t big enough to erase the pain entirely.
So it seems that multiple research teams agree, cursing does help a little with pain tolerance. That said, don’t expect to champion a 5k marathon on cursing alone and without practice. Yes, you’ll be able to curse all the way through, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be hating every second of it.