The New York Post picked up a story about LIU Brooklyn professor Dr. David Spierer’s study with UK professor Dr. Richard Stephens of Keele University that discovered that cursing while working out boosts physical performance.
Their groundbreaking new study published in the Journal of Psychology of Sports and Exercise has found that swearing aloud not only relieves the temporary pain associated with exercise, but can increase physical performance, strength, and power.
According to the study, swearing was shown to produce a 4.6 percent increase in initial power during a 30-second stationary bicycle test called the Wingate test, as well as an 8.2 percent increase in a separate test of maximum hand grip strength.
“Swearing appears to be able to bring about improvements in physical performance that may not be solely dependent on a stress response arising out of the shock value of the swearing,” Dr. Stephens said. “We know that swearing appears to be handled in brain regions not usually associated with language processing. It is possible that activation of these areas by swearing could produce performance improvements across many different domains.”
Dr. Spierer added, “Cursing may allow people to shut down their inhibitions and somewhat veil the effort and the pain of this really difficult task.” In this way, Spierer says, “using swear words might be helpful in any circumstance where muscle strength and a sudden burst of force or speed, is required.”
In the study, Dr. Stephens and Dr. Spierer asked participants to suggest a swear word they might use in response to banging their head accidentally, and for the non-swearing trials, a word to describe a table. Based on Dr. Stephens’ previous research showing beneficial effects of swearing in the context of physical pain, they expected to see nervous system arousal in the form of elevated heart rate and blood pressure correlate with the improvement in physical performance. However, this was not the case.
Dr. Stephens and Dr. Spierer have already begun their second study examining the effect of swearing on more common activities that are found in most exercise programs.