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Swearing Profanities Boosts Sports Performance

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Swearing may come naturally when we’re angry, but it’s also natural to swear when we’re trying to psych ourselves to be able to climb that last hill, or lift that last rep. This is because according to psychologists, swearing actually makes you stronger.

The study was conducted at Keele University on folks who repeated either a swear word or neutral word as they pounded away on an exercise bike, or performed a simple hand-grip test. Researchers found that for those who cursed their way through the half-minute bike challenge, their peak power rose by 24 watts on average; in the 10-second grip challenge, swearers boosted their strength by the equivalent of 2.1kg.

The test was conducted on 29 people on a cycling test, and 52 for a hand-grip test. All were asked to choose a swearword (and repeat it), and a neutral word, like ‘wooden’ or ‘brown’. During the test, participants were asked to repeat the words in an even tone – not screaming it out – and those who let rip with profanities had increased performance levels, although it did not raise heart rates, suggesting that expletives weren’t triggering the fight-or-flight response.

Apparently, swearing also increased people’s tolerance to pain. In a separate study, volunteers were able to keep their hands in ice water longer when they swore, and their heart rates also accelerated, reducing their pain perception.

So it just goes to show that a little expletive goes a long way when it comes to performance and tolerance.

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